Roger Waters | The Wall [Live 2010]

13 12 2010

This past week I saw Pink Floyd frontman, Roger Waters at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. In case you hadn’t already heard, Roger has redesigned his old live production of The Wall since it debuted  30 years ago. If that original 1980 tour was spectacle, this updated version is a spectacular. I mean that in the truest sense of the word. Not only has Waters brought it up to date in terms of message and context, but in technology as well. Yes, the concept is similar at the core (build a HUGE wall and knock it down) but this show is produced incredibly well. I have seen 100’s of live performances, and I think this may be the most thrilling of them. Some feat when you consider I’m talking about everything: big venues, small venues and everything in between; rock, jazz, blues, and all the rest; music, theater and even sporting events. Regardless of the magnitude, style, or even medium, this left me completely floored.

When they begin the performance the wall is only partly built, with the band playing just behind it in full view. As the night progresses, the wall is built up brick by brick. As ths goes on, you start to see less and less of the band until they are only viewable through a few missing bricks. And then, like that, they are gone. They continue to play out view and all the while there are amazing projections on the wall, both providing context for the music and creating atmospherics to set the mood. There are even puppets, pyrotechnics and other cool props, all of which just add to the ambiance. The whole experience is really amazing throughout and totally engaging like I’ve never seen before.

By intermission the wall is fully built, with the band still playing from behind it’s cover. As the second set opens they continue the routine, until there is a moment where Roger appears from an odd compartment that unfolds from the wall’s exterior. It’s a “hotel room”, where he sits in an armchair and sings “Nobody’s Home”. True theater and a really cool addition to the performance. Soon after, the band is moved to the front of the wall to “perform” some other more theatrical bits. Then, it’s just Roger out front, with the rest of the band in their positions hidden behind. For various solos and singing parts other members of the band appear 35 feet in the air at the very top of the wall. The guitar solo on “Comfortably Numb” is a great moment where they do this. Finally, there is this huge crescendo that is really effectively created using the projections and the mood rather than merely the tempo. At the climax, the wall is toppled to the ground, revealing the band behind.  At which point the band comes out to the forestage bearing only acoustic instruments and play “Outside the Wall”. After a few thanks and some introductions, each member marches of stage one by one until Roger says his final farewell.

The whole thing is mind blowing and unfortunately my account, these photos and any videos will never do it justice. Whether you’re a fan of the music or not, this is a show you MUST see. There are still tour dates available into 2011. I recommend hitting stubhub to see if you can catch it. Quality live footage from the show is rather difficult to find but there are some nice promotional videos that were designed to tease you on the experience. Check out these few. The first 2 provide a solid picture of the show with actual HD footage, there are even a few fan interviews and testimonials too. The third provides some great insight into Roger’s feelings on the music, the show and it’s design. That one, I think, is particularly good.

Now, I purposely avoided all of this stuff online as I wanted to go in totally blind, which is definitely why it was so impactful. However, if you are not going to be able to see it live, you have to check these out to know what the hell this thing is all about.

If you’re going to go ahead and spoil this by sneaking a peek, you might as well watch this footage shot from the audience of “The Trial” into “Outside the Wall”. This piece in particular, gave me goosebumps. It’s the whole thing. The dénouement, if you will. The footage is amateur but you absolutely get a sense of what it’s like. Check it out…

Advertisements




Karen Elson | The Ghost That Walks

9 09 2010

For those not familiar with Karen Elson, simply put: she’s a very talented and beautiful  lady. To elaborate, albeit just slightly, she is a British supermodel who recently released an album on Jack White’s Third Man Records. Interestingly enough, this album has been getting a lot of attention, both positive and negative. The issue is that most people read something like that (“supermodel turned musician”) and immediately condemn the work regardless of it’s merit. For me, not only is the actual material important but the context is key to understanding where she is coming from as an artist. Only after considering both is it fair to opine one way or another. First, let me give you a little taste of the title track from her debut The Ghost That Walks. Then we get into the business…

Pretty good stuff, no? The girl has an excellent voice that is drenched in this moody folk meets gothic style. Here’s the scoop: Karen is a supermodel of significant notoriety (if you follow that world) but she has long been a singer/songwriter, using the guitar as her writing tool. The arts must be in her genes as her twin sister, Kate, is a film maker in her own right. Plus, it’s not like fashion isn’t a creative field. Sure the models tend not to contribute artistically but they need to “get it” as they are a large part of the atmospherics that collectively create a designer’s show.

That aside, She has actually been doing this singing thing for a while now. Many people don’t realize that she is a founding member of a political cabaret troupe in NY called The Citizens Band. Some might say cabaret is nothing but an arcane side show but that couldn’t be further from the truth. These girls actually put on an amazing show that transcends sex appeal covering songs by artists as diverse as The Velvet Underground, Kurt Weill, Elvis Presley, Mimi and Richard Fariña, Pete Seeger, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Marlene Dietrich. Not surprisingly, Karen is a strong talent that stands out amongst the others both with her fantastic voice and songwriting skills… ok, and the sex appeal too. Live footage of The Citizens Band is very rare but I was able to find this one performance of one of Karen’s originals called “Mouths To Feed”. It happens to be on the new album but it’s not exactly one of my favorite tunes. Not to mention that the video is very amateurish, literally as it was taken by an audience member, and it doesn’t necessarily capture the essence of their typical showmanship. But nevertheless…

This gig in The Citizens Band led to collaborations and supporting work with Robert Plant and Cat Power. But that’s not what produced this great great collection of material. Actually, it’s not what but who produced the work that is most responsible for inspiring her to take it to this new level. I casually mentioned earlier that Jack White was invloved but I purposely left out the details as I find this to be one of the more interesting parts of the backstory. Jack is just her producer, he’s her husband. Karen and Jack met while filming the music video for The White Stripes’ video “Blue Orchid”.

The video’s director, Floria Sigismondi, remarked that “you could sense the energy between them.” They married within the year and now have two kids together. An odd side note: They had a remote wedding on the Amazon River in Brazil where White Stripes manager Ian Montone was the best man and Jack’s ex-wife, Meg White, was Karen’s maid of honor. Anyway, while living happily ever after in their Nashville home Jack found Karen “hiding” away scrolling out these songs. He eventually persuaded her to show him what she had been working on and he was blown away with what he heard. With some more encouragement, she wrote a few more and, like that, the album was born.

White’s contribution is in sound design only as the producer but that is one of the most striking things about this album. It sounds richly organic. He very wisely blends a very gritty instrumental with her beautiful voice to create this fantastic combination that is strangely haunting yet alluring. All and all, I am please to say that she checks out. Her songs are good, her voice is great (so long as she doesn’t go too Stevie Nicks with vibrato) and artistically, there is certainly integrity there. Like many albums in this iPod era, this album is not a complete winner but there is definitely some good stuff there. If I had to pick just a few tunes, I recommend  “The Ghost That Walks”l, “The Birds They Circle”, “Thief At My Door” and this one: “Pretty Babies”

References: 

Karen’s Official Site

Karen’s MySpace Page

Karen on Facebook

Karen on YouTube

More info on Karen Elson

More info on The Ghost Who Walks

More info on Jack White

More info Third Man Records





Maps & Atlases | Pigeon

22 07 2010

I recently found this cool video of Maps & Atlases playing “Pigeon” live in the studio. In the first bit, lead singer/guitarist Dave Davison explains the moment the song came to him during a walk in their home city of Chicago. The story is pretty cool, although, he seems to have a hard time finding the words at some points (warning: there are a lot of “likes”). It’s actually very funny because he does not seem like the type. Nevertheless, the whole thing is really interesting and the performance is great. Their sound is quite cool, featuring some very technical playing but in a really organic manner. This song, from their recently released LP Pertch Patchwork, is a perfect example. This style reminds me a bit of Prog Rock in that it is pretty sophisticated stuff. So much so, that it is being called “Math Rock”… but don’t let that scare you away, it’s not calculus or anything.

References:

Maps & Atlases Official Site

Maps & Atlases on MySpace

More info on Maps & Atlases

Purchase Maps & Atlases Merch

More info on Math Rock





McCartney Live in SF

13 07 2010

This past weekend I drove up to San Francisco with Lady GG and the pup. The impetus for the trip was to see Sir Paul on the west coast swing of his US Tour but this was my first time in San Fran so, needless to say, I was psyched to check out the city. San Francisco has a very musical history being the home and breeding ground of such bands as The Grateful Dead, Santana and Jefferson Airplane. There are also numerous famous venues like The Fillmore, The Warfield, Yoshi’s and more. Because of this history, there was a lot I wanted to see upon arrival. Of course, I had to get in all the standard SF sights as well. With just a few days, I knew it would be quite a trip.

Let me start by stating the obvious: Paul was AMAZING! I had never seen him before, which even surprises me given I’m a huge fan. The guy puts on a great show and when you consider the scale of this show it was especially fantastic. He does about 30 songs, that includes 2 three song encores. Throughout the show he engages the audience in a way that is extremely charming, which makes you think that only Paul could pull that off. I was not at all surprised by his spot-on playing regardless of instrument (bass, guitar, mandolin, ukelele & piano) but I was surprised at the man’s endurance. It takes some serious stamina to go that long with such sustained intensity and enthusiasm. I guess it should be expected from the Beatle that always wanted to tour hard even in the post-Beatlemania days. But it’s really hard to believe he’s 68 years old. Back when he was lobbying for more time on the road he was still in his 20’s.

Here is a little video I took on my shabby Flip camera. The quality of the video is mediocre but the quality of this performance is incredible. It’s Paul’s tribute to John, “Here Today”. If you are not familiar with the song, it was written after John’s death. Paul has said in earlier interviews that he never intended to write the song but at a certain point he had finally come to terms with the loss of his dear friend and the song just came out. He has also said that out of all the (amazing) songs he has written it’s one of his favorites, alongside “Maybe I’m Amazed”, “Blackbird”, “Hey Jude” and a few others. “Here Today” is a fitting tribute that really conveys how close they were and expresses Paul’s regrets about their petty quarrels and disagreements. It’s really powerful and, taken in context of their relationship, it’s very sad.

Like I said, the whole show was great. If you have a chance to catch an upcoming date, you have to go. He plays a ton of Beatles tunes, hit and otherwise. He also does all that great Wings material like “Jet”, “Band on the Run”, “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” and “Live and Let Die”. They even roll out some awesome pyrotechnics for “Live and Let Die” which is so crazy you wonder how they can keep going and maintain that momentum… but they do. Paul even slips in some of his songs from the solo years and 2 from The Fireman years as well. No surprise, they’re equally as great.

He played 40 songs at our show. 40! But I guess we really shouldn’t be surprised considering Paul is officially the most successful songwriter of all time… accordingly to the people at Guiness World Records. I know, crazy. Among the onslaught of pop hits, this weekend, I particularly liked “Mrs Vanderbilt”. It was also cool to see him do “San Francisco Bay Blues” given the location. He also played “Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da” which was a huge surprise. He’s been playing it on this tour but it hasn’t appeared in his repertoire for decades.  As you might imagine, it’s a great live song so the crowd went nuts upon the first chord. Check out the whole Saturday 7/10/10 setlist from AT&T Park right HERE. At that same link, you can even sample the songs… although they are not from this actual performance. But, they serve as a good reference.

All and all it was a very cool trip that included some great music, great food, a little site seeing, a really cool hike through the trails of the National Park and on top of it all we got to bring the pooch along too. I will be going back sooner than later and I have big plans to do all the stuff I missed out on. Maybe this time I’ll actually get to check out Yoshi’s.

References:

More info on San Francisco

More info on The Golden Gate Bridge

More info on AT&T Park

More info on Paul McCartney

More info on The Beatles

More info on Wings





Coachella 2010

20 04 2010

I wasn’t able to attend Coachella this year so I don’t have much to personally contribute on the topic but thankfully there are a ton of sites covering it. The best place I have found thus far is from the people at Pitchfork.com. Check out their Coachella hub to listen to streaming music, watch videos and learn more about what went down this past weekend. CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE HUB

The hub is good but if you want to skip right to the videos you can see them all HERE. If you can’t see them right away, expand the post by clicking “Read More”. Below are a few of my favorites…








%d bloggers like this: