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Archive for the ‘Theatre of Living Arts’ Category

[ATTENDED: March 6, 2018] Spoon

I couldn’t believe that Spoon was the second band on this bill.  I had seen Spoon last year at the TLA in Philly and they played a huge set and the fanbase was rabid.  It was weird to see them in the setting sun (Britt Daniel came out and acted like he was a vampire when he saw the bright sun).

The crowd had filled in somewhat between Sunflower Bean and Spoon, but they were still going on at 6:45–not an ideal concert time, to be sure.

Regardless, the folks who were there were there for Spoon and they reacted appropriately. There was lots of dancing and singing along.  And Daniel either saw people he recognized or just acted like it because he was engaging and a lot of fun.

A few days before this tour started, it was announced that bassist Rob Pope was leaving the band [he’s going to spend more time with his other band The Get Up Kids].  It seemed liked terrible timing, but I gather they had his replacement Ben Trokan all lined up because they didn’t miss any dates on the tour and Trokan was great when I saw them.

Britt Daniel was dressed in a shirt and jacket (again, it was very hot, what’s up with these singers?).  He immediately started interacting with the crowd, climbing on his monitors and putting a foot on the fence that kept the crowd from the stage.  Like last time, they opened with “Do I Have to Talk You Into It” and everyone sounded fantastic.  Daniel’s voice was in great form and his guitar playing (when he played) was right on.

Since the previous show was nearly two hours and this one was barely 40 minutes, I assumed we’d get the truncated version of the previous set list.  But it seems that Spoon likes to mix things up a bit from night to night.  So up next was “The Way We Get By” which I didn’t hear last time (nice!).  They followed that with another favorite of mine, “My Mathematical Mind.”

They played the new song, “No Bullets Spent” which fit in perfectly with the rest of their set.  Then everyone went crazy when they started the rumbling guitar for “The Underdog”.  There were no horns like on the record, but the keys and piano were a great substitute.

I love watching drummer Jim Eno.  He seems to be having so much fun out there.  He definitely feeds off of Daniel’s energy–there were a couple of times when Daniel slashed his guitar through the air and Eno accented that with some drum hits.  During “The Underdog” he was playing the maracas and when he was done he hurled it across the stage to the roadie–who caught it!

The slow piano intro that started the next song sounded familiar, but I wasn’t sure if I knew it.  It turned out to be a cover of John Lennon’s “Isolation.”  It sure sounded like a Beatles song when they were playing it, but they put a nifty Spoon spin on it.

On the left side of the stage was Gerardo Larios and Alex Fischel both on keys and guitars.  Larios was standing in the back playing mostly keys but the occasional guitar.  I enjoyed watching Larios play the harp-like keyboard sounds during “Inside Out.

Alex Fischel is a rocking lunatic on his side of the stage.  Mostly he’s bouncing and pouncing on his own keyboards and effects arrays but every once in awhile he would strap on a guitar and come out to the center of the stage for a minute, playing some noisy angular guitars like in “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” (a song I can’t believe they didn’t play last time and which I was super exited to hear tonight).

I knew that Trokan would fit in fine with Spoon once he played the throbbing bass of “I Turn My Camera On” which sounded perfect.

They ended the set with a rocking “Don’t You Evah” and  hen followed it with two songs from They Want My Soul, “Do You” and “Rent I Pay.”  Las time, they ended the TLA show with “Rent I Pay” as well.  So the first and last songs were the same, but much of everything else was different.

The sun started to set on them before their set ended, and that seemed to make their set a bit more fun.

Spoon were very loud though and I should have put in ear plugs.  But since they only played for 40 minutes, it wasn’t too much over-exposure for me.

All in all a great set and a good introduction to Spoon for S. who didn’t really know them.

 

2019 PNC 2018 TLA
Do I Have to Talk You Into It [Hot] Do I Have to Talk You Into It [Hot]
The Way We Get By [Moon] I Turn My Camera On [Gimme]
My Mathematical Mind [Gimme] Lowdown (Wire cover)
No Bullets Spent [Hits] The Fitted Shirt [Girls]
The Underdog [Ga] Don’t You Evah [Ga]
Isolation (John Lennon cover) Do You [Soul]
Inside Out [Soul] Via Kannela [interlude]
You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb [Ga] I Ain’t the One [Hot]
I Turn My Camera On [Gimme] Everything Hits at Once [Girls]
Don’t You Evah [Ga] Can I Sit Next to You [Hot]
Do You [Soul] My Mathematical Mind [Gimme]
Rent I Pay [Soul] Don’t Make Me a Target [Ga]
The Underdog [Ga]
Got Nuffin [Trans]
Black Like Me [Ga]
encore
Small Stakes [Moon]
Hot Thoughts [Hot]
Rent I Pay [Soul]

[Girls] Girls Can Tell (2001)
[Moon] Kill the Moonlight (2002)
[Gimme] Gimme Fiction (2005)
[Ga] Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007)
[Trans] Transference (2010)
[Soul] They Want My Soul (2014)
[Hot] Hot Thoughts (2017)
[Hits] Everything Hits at Once (2019)

Evidently Eno has different bass drum heads.  I wonder how often he changes them.

This time it was the one on the left.  Last time it was the one on the right.

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[ATTENDED: May 19, 2019] Animals as Leaders

My Brother-in-law, Ben told me about Animals as Leaders and I was rather shocked that I had never heard of Tosin Abasi.

Tosin is from Washington D.C. (his parents are from Nigeria).  He is self taught and has been playing since about 2000.  He plays primarily the 8-string electric guitar and his fingers (on both hands) are all over the fretboard.  Basically, he’s a guy you want to watch closely.

He started the all-instrumental Animals as Leaders in 2009.  The band is a hybrid of many different genres: heavy metal, prog, jazz, classical.  Or as he put it: “Thanks for listening to our weird ass music for the last ten years.”

I was also intrigued that right after talking about them I saw that they were coming into Philly a few weeks later.  So I immediately grabbed a ticket.

Indeed, this tour was celebrating the tenth anniversary of the debut, self-titled album.  I assumed that that meant they’d be playing the whole album but they didn’t.  They played about half of the debut and about half of their newest release (from way back in 2016).

I feel about this show that it was the most disappointing experience of an amazing show that I’ve had in a long time. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 19, 2019] The Contortionist

I don’t understand how I have never heard of The Contortionist (which is a spectacular name for a prog-metal band, especially in the singular).  They have been making prog-metal since 2007.  And prog metal is one of my jams.

So how could I not know about these guys (who have a pretty intense fanbase)?

They had this cool wooden cutout backdrop thing which I rather liked.  Although when the lights came on I saw that it was beat up and weathered–ah the magic of stage craft.

The band came out and the lighting was really intense. The light behind the wooden sculpture was lit up from time to time, but primarily the stage lights coordinated very well with the (diverse and very fast) riffs and drums.  There were a few strobing moments that actually hurt my head.

I was in front of guitarist Cameron Maynard and bassist Jordan Eberhardt.  The problem for me was that once this band took the stage an influx of very tall people came up front.  Plus the lighting was mostly very very dark.  I didn’t even realize there was a second guitarist (Robby Baca) for about three songs. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 19, 2019] Moon Tooth

Moon Tooth are a band from Long Island who began in 2012.  They have two albums and some EPs out.

What’s most striking about them is how much the one guy (guitarist Nick Lee) does not look like the other three.

Vocalist John Carbone, drummer Ray Marté and bassist Vincent Romanelli are all broad guys with short hair, while Lee has long locks and is quite thin.

In some respects he feels like an outsider musically as well.  The rhythm section is heavy and groovin and Carbone’s voice fits along really well with it.  It’s not growly or traditionally metal high-pitched, it’s just really powerful–he’s got a great voice.

Lee’s guitars feel a lot more metal, though–little squeaky high notes and flashy riffs and what not. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 25, 2018] Korpiklaani

I’m not even sure now what inspired me to go see Korpiklaani.  I know I’d never heard of them before this month.  But I somehow saw their name and t heir genre and heard that their shows were just inspired lunacy.  The fact that they were from Finland made it even more interesting and exotic.  I watched a video or two and decided I’d like to see them.  And then, lo and behold they were playing in Philly in like two weeks.

So I rearranged my schedule and got a ticket.

The crowd at TLA was relatively small, but it was incredibly intense.  Nearly everyone there knew the band really well.  Some were in kilts, there were lots of beards.  And that small crowd even got a raging mosh pit going.

Some people feel that they are not really heavy metal, and I can see that.  Even singer Jonne Järvelä, said “Korpiklaani’s music would be seen as “old people’s music with heavy metal guitars” in Finland.

I really had no idea what to expect, so I was delighted when the band came out as a kind of Nordic Folk Village People.   (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 25, 2018] Arkona

This was an early Sunday show.  Doors at 6, bands on at 7.  It was billed as three bands, headliners Korpiklaani, with support from Arkona and a Philly band called Frost Giant, all of whom played Folk Metal–a genre I had only recently even heard of.

Parking was a drag (I was foolish in my arrival time) and so I got into the theater a little after 7.  There was some buzz in the room, but I never would have guessed that was because Frost Giant had already come and gone–leaving no trace.  After the show someone told me that they went on at 6:35 and were good.  Sorry Frost Giant, that’s poor information from the venue, but I’ve just listened to some of your stuff on bandcamp, and you guys rock.  I hope to see you again around Philly.

I didn’t know Arkona (Аркона) at all.  I looked them up before the show and learned that they were Russian, which I found really exciting and intriguing.  Korpiklaani is Finnish, so it would be a night of no one singing English at all. (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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