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Archive for the ‘The Tubes’ Category

[ATTENDED: May 21, 2016] An Evening with Todd Rundgren

2016-05-21 22.05.52I was astonished to learn that I’ve gone most of my life not knowing that Todd Rundgren wrote “Hello, It’s Me” and “Bang the Drum All Day.”

How did I not know this?

Indeed it turns out I didn’t know much about Rundgren.  I knew he was in the band Utopia and that they played weird prog rock.  And I also thought he was kind of a control freak.  But I didn’t realize he had those huge hits (which might explain how he makes so many weird albums–and he has a lot of weird albums).

I don’t even know what made me get a ticket of this show.  I had recently been hearing a bit about him. I had looked him up on line or some reason (that’s how I knew he wrote those songs) and I recognized the photo to the right, an iconic photo from Something/Anything (which was used as the backdrop for the show).  When I saw that he was playing at McCarter, I decided it was time to check him out.  Now, I was going to see a show the night before and normally I don’t like to do two nights in a row, but since this show was so close by (and I knew I’d be home by eleven) I decided to go.  And I had a great time.

The blurb for this show started: “The classic rocker Todd Rundgren may be 67, but he shows no signs of slowing down.”  And that’s very true.

I managed to score a seat in Row J, which was so close to the man I could see him sweat (ew).  The only problem was the very tall man sitting in front of me (I should have asked him to switch seats with his tiny wife).

While I was waiting for the show to start, a woman sat down next to me with her husband and some friends.  She was super friendly (and a bit drunk) and we started talking.  She asked how big a fan I was of Todd.  And I had to admit that this was my first show.  She told me that she first saw Todd when she was 16 (or 19 who can remember) and has seen him every tour since then (she’s in her 50s).  She said he tours constantly and she will see him twice a year sometimes.

Normally I’m not much of a talker during a show, but I enjoyed having her next to me to occasionally guide me through what I was hearing.  Unlike the louts at the end of the row who were talking really loudly and making jokes throughout the show (and getting up to go to the bar every couple of songs).  They were big fans I could tell (they knew every song), but such disrespect I’ve never seen.

The lady (whose name I never got) told me that Todd makes a new playlist for each show and decides what he’s going to play an hour before he goes on.  That was pretty cool.  She told me a few other things that were interesting about him (he has a house that he built in Hawaii but he never goes there because he is always touring).  And that, amazingly, she’d never actually met him after all these years.

And then the lights dimmed and the band came out.  Followed by Todd.  And the crowd went berserk!  It was especially amusing because it was practically like a  Tom Jones show, with women throwing themselves at him (my seatmate remained remarkably composed).  These women (mostly) stood and applauded after each song, waved their arms and were so utterly into it, I was amazed. (more…)

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secondsSOUNDTRACK: FOO FIGHTERS-Wasting Light (2011).

Foo_Fighters_Wasting_Light_Album_CoverThis summer I began writing about Foo Fighters’ albums.  Somehow I stopped before the final two.  Even though I had talked about Wasting Light before, in respect of a sense of continuity here’s more words about it.

It took four years for the Foo Fighters to release this album (I guess Grohl was doing one of his many side projects?).  The big story about this record was that Grohl wanted it all recorded with analogue equipment (in Grohl’s garage).  And he chose Butch Vig, who recorded Nevermind to do the work. Pat Smear was also included as a member of the band for this album (he even plays a baritone guitar)

Although to my ear it doesn’t sound any different from the digital recordings, there is a warmth and bigness to the album that their recent records seemed to lack

“Bridge Burning” opens with a bunch of muffled notes that give way to a big screamed opening verse.  This song grows more adventurous with some guitar harmonics at the end of the verses. The bridge leads to a classic Foo Fighters chorus (with more vocal harmonies in the background, that just seems to make it feel bigger)).  I love the descending chords in the (what, sixth?) part of the song.  Before the simple but great closing riffs.  It was released as the fifth (!) single from the album.

“Rope” was the first single.  It opens with some echoed guitar chords and then what sounds like a big old Rush riff and intro.  The riff is a little unusual but really cool (guitarist Chris Shiflett to comment that “What my guitar is doing over the bass makes no sense in a way. It does, but you don’t know how.” ) The verses have that riff in between them and a big “ow!” in the bridge.  Unsurprisingly, despite all of the oddness of the verses, the chorus is big and friendly with some great sing along parts.  There’s even a section for a (brief) drum solo.

Bob Mould (clearly an influence on Grohl) came into sing and play guitar on “Dear Rosemary.”  You can’t really hear him all that much, but when he pops up (especially near the end) it sounds great.   “White Limo” is a punky blast, with Grohl’s vocal shredding (lyrics are pretty much inaudible) right from the get go.  There’s some interesting riffs and chord changes (the music is so much cleaner than the distorted vocals).  “Arlandria” sounds like the Foo Fighters, but there’s something unusual about the feel of the song (the bridge especially).  The chorus is pure Foos, but the verse has an interesting style that’s not like anything Grohl has done before.

“One of These Days” opens with some rather unusual guitar notes (Grohl has clearly been experimenting with his guitar skills over the years).  It progresses into a smooth verse and then shifts to a big (but short) chorus with stadium chords and then another sing a long part after it.  It’s a very cool song (and Grohl has said it’s his favorite song that he’s written).

“Back & Forth” has a strange backwards kind of riff that opens the song and a kind of chugga chugga heavy metal guitar verse.  The song is one of the simplest ones on the record–almost completely poppy (if not for being so heavy).  It also seems weird that it ends with the riff too.  “A Matter of Time” starts out as mostly drums and vocals with some guitar riffs. It moves to a kind of unusual staccato riff around one minute and then turns into yes, a huge chorus.  The verses after the chorus seem bright and sweet with a newly added guitar line.

“Miss the Misery” features Fee Waybill, lead singer from The Tubes (and a friend of Grohl’s).  The opening riffage actually reminds me a song by Aldo Nova (who?).  I like the chorus (and backing vocals, although I never would have guessed it was Fee Waybill).

And Krist Novoselic plays bass (and accordion!) on “I Should Have Known.”   It has a slow echoey intro (complete with mellotron and strings).  It has an aching vocal delivery in the chorus.  The bass doesn’t really kick in until about 3 minutes (when the song really fills out)

“Walk” ends the album.  It is pretty classic Foo Fighters at this point, a slow opening and then big choruses (and was written about helping his daughter to walk).  This one even has a radio friendly pause in one of the choruses.   (I love that the final song was released as the second single, and am so glad they didn’t front load the album!).  And that the song and album end with a fast chord .

This is a solid album from start to finish.  I think when they keep their albums under 50 minutes, they keep the music tight and don’t throw in any filler.

[READ: January 13, 2015] Seconds

Wow I loved this book.

I had been reading a lot of graphic novels and I was a little burnt on them, but this one rose above everything else I’d read in a while.

O’Malley did the Scott Pilgrim series, one of my favorite series and a darn good movie too.  While this has similar sensibility to Pilgrim (including the punchline of the same joke, ha) I think this being a a single book made it more impactful.

The story is about Katie.  She is a chef.  She also looks a lot like the style of O’Malley’s characters–sort of short roundish features, bordering on anime but with his own style thrown on top.  Katie’s most recognizable feature is her awesome flame of red hair on top of her head.

Katie co-owns Seconds, a very popular restaurant.  People come for her food because she is a very good cook.  Even if she doesn’t actually do much cooking anymore–she’s more a manager than a chef (having read a lot about chefs in Lucky Peach, I understand what this whole scene is like more than I might have otherwise).  She is really interested in opening up her own place (called Katie’s) across the river.  Since she is only co-owner of Seconds, she wants to be out of it and into her very own restaurant (even if she still likes the other co-owner).

We meet the others who work at Seconds.  The new head chef Andrew (with whom there’s a bit of a romance) and the waitresses, especially Hazel, a very tall mousy kind of woman whom everyone else thinks is very strange.  Hazel is quiet, she’s really hot, and she always wants to close the restaurant at night (others have seen her doing strange things before she leaves). (more…)

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mazeppa[ATTENDED: July 13, 2014] Xanadu

The movie Xanadu has been a long lost guilty pleasure of mine since I was a kid. I remember watching the movie and not caring that it was weird or, stupid or whatever. I loved Grease and therefore I loved Olivia Newton John.  And while I didn’t love E.L.O., I certainly loved the soundtrack to this movie about, well, whatever it was about.

I have the soundtrack on vinyl, and I clearly listened to it hundreds of times because when the songs popped up in this production, I knew if not all the words, then certainly the melodies.  I haven’t seen the movie since the 80s, though, and I didn’t watch it before going into this play.  And, indeed, I didn’t even know that the play was different from the movie, but I am so glad it was.

The musical (which was on Broadway) takes the basic sketches of the movie (which was pretty much just sketches anyway) and makes a new, very funny and very meta- (jokes about the movie and about the 80s among other things) look at the original, while keeping the characters and the music.  And man did I laugh a lot.  It helped that I knew the movie, but it wasn’t necessary for full enjoyment.

The basic plot is that Sonny is an artist.  He is inspired by a mural of Greek muses.  And after he gives up on his latest painting, the muses come to life and decide to inspire him.  The main muse is Clio who will come to earth “with an Australian accent” (for Olivia Newton John, of course) and call herself Kira.  Kira plans to help Sonny to open a club.  A club where there will be roller disco.  Naturally there is a bad guy–the creator of the club who once loved music but is now all about money.  And, since there are gods involved, there is bound to be mischief, as Clio’s sisters don’t want to see her get Xanadu as she was promised.  Their mischief is to make her fall in love–which will get her banished from Mt Olympus.

Amazingly enough, this crazy plot is much simpler and sensible than the original movie plot. (more…)

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