Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Who - Live 11.27.06 - Hershey, PA

It is an understatement to say I’m tired from the 400-mile round trip drive, but you will not hear complaints from me. The chaps from Shepherd’s Bush were worth every kilometer. The Who took the stage and went right into “I Can’t Explain” with astonishing energy. I had mentally prepared myself for the effects of time on The Who – Townshend & Daltrey in their 60s, playing without irreplaceable bandmates Moon & Entwistle. Well, the years were kind to Pete & Roger. Obviously, they aren’t young men anymore, but they are also not senior citizens. Daltrey has a hell of a body and voice, and still rapidly swung his mic around like a lariat. Even when his pipes wavered, his stage presence stayed strong. His scream on “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was hair-raising. Townshend was captivating; he looked like he could play all night long. I was surprised to see him repeatedly jumping around and thrashing those power-chords, in his signature Townshend windmill style. There is nothing that compares to seeing this man in action.

The musicians touring with The Who do an admirable job of filling the vacancies left behind. Pino Palladino on bass, Zak Starkey (son of Ringo Starr) on drums, Simon Townshend (Pete’s brother) on guitar/back-up vocals and John “Rabbit” Bundrick on keyboards (although last night “Rabbit” was replaced by his technician). Pete acknowledged the entire band, and said of Zak that they couldn’t do it without him. Starkey definitely knows his way around that drum kit, and there’s no doubt that he’s studied Keith Moon exhaustively. Pino, in Entwistle fashion, remained basically motionless. He held it down quite nicely though, and his solos during “My Generation” elicited a woot of praise from me.

In addition to the music, there was a nice selection of visual distractions – videos of the 1960s counterculture scene and the Who’s younger days, as well as other past rock icons including Hendrix and Elvis. Not to mention a killer light show. The arena was packed with all age groups – from young children to gray-haired groupies. There were lots of Union Jacks, even a full-sized one being paraded around the floor. Also had a good venue experience. The GIANT Center is located in Hershey Park; and as a result, I had the pleasure of seeing their Christmas Candylane light display upon entering, which was quite charming. The event staff was also uncharacteristically friendly. Our seats were in the back of the arena, but we had a great view of the stage and all the video/light action.

With some help from past setlists:
I Can’t Explain, The Seeker, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, Fragments, Who Are You, Behind Blue Eyes, Sound Round, Pick Up The Peace, Endless Wire, We Got A Hit, They Made My Dream Come True, Mirror Door, Baba O’Riley, Eminence Front, A Man In A Purple Dress, Mike Post Theme, You Better You Bet, My Generation, Cry If You Want, Won’t Get Fooled Again
Encore: Pinball Wizard, Amazing Journey, Sparks, See Me Feel Me, Tea And Theatre

I was thrilled to hear “Eminence Front” – and the 20+ minute encore with the Tommy suite ended the evening perfectly. Apparently, these guys are touring for another full year. If you haven’t seen them, you should.

*Also, I neglected to mention that The Pretenders were the opening act. 55 year-old Chrissie Hynde, like Pete & Roger, looks amazing for her age. I can’t say that I loved their performance, but they deserve props for their longevity.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Hot Tuna - Live 11.18.06 - Charlottesville, VA

After last night, I’d have to say that Hot Tuna is one of the best live acts ever. Jack Casady & Jorma Kaukonen amazed me; there is no doubt as to why they’re in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I’d argue that there aren’t two musicians who are more “in tune” with each other. I saw Hot Tuna about a year ago at Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam, but it was an abbreviated set and I was much farther from the stage. Seeing them at Starr Hill was quite a treat. On a side note, that venue is by far my favorite in Virginia. Very intimate setting (you feel like they’re playing in your living room), great acoustics, and cheap beer :o)

The crowd packed in, and if it wasn’t sold out, it was damn close. I felt young amidst the sea of baby boomers, but I planned on an older crowd. The music started at about 10:00pm. For most shows, Hot Tuna is either acoustic or electric. On this tour, they’ve been mixing it up. As someone who can get lulled to sleep by too much acoustic, I was very appreciative of the variety. I got traditional blues numbers, some sweet folk songs, a nice mix of country bluegrass, and some straight-up heavy rock ‘n roll. It was like going to see four bands for the price of one. Another plus – acoustic & electric meant that I got assaulted with an arsennal of instruments. Jack Casady used his signature Epiphone all night, while Jorma & mandolonist Barry Mitterhoff kept switching it up. Jorma also played his signature Epiphone for the electric numbers. For the acoustic tunes, he had a few different axes, most notably this sweet-ass acoustic electric that didn’t have a sound hole or any pickups. I wish I could find a picture of that one. Barry Mitterhoff had such a plethora of instruments on stage that I couldn’t even keep track. Shit, I couldn’t even figure out what half of them were. All I know is that electric mandolin is where it’s at, and Barry should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame too.

The highlight of the night for me was the “Bowlegged Woman” in the second set. Jack’s smooth, relaxed bass lines were the perfect complement to Jorma’s blistering solos. Getting to hear that song was worth the price of admission alone. Also got a Merle Haggard cover, “More Than My Old Guitar,” which went into my second favorite of the night, “Hesitation Blues”.

Sample of “Bowlegged Woman, Knock-Kneed Man”
Sample of “Hesitation Blues”

Closing remarks- Hot Tuna receives my sincerest accolades. At the risk of sounding cheesy, Jack Casady & Jorma Kaukonen are truly the stuff that legends are made of. Go see Hot Fucking Tuna while you still have the chance!

Monday, November 13, 2006

North Mississippi Allstars - Live 11.11 & 11.12.06

I had the pleasure of spending the past two nights with the North Mississippi Allstars, as well as their special guest, Jon Spencer of the Blues Explosion. I don’t know how these guys flew under my radar for so long!!! They fuckin’ rock.

Brothers Luther & Cody Dickinson started off by sitting down with their acoustic guitars. Cody is usually behind the drums, so it was impressive to see how well he handles the guitar. Luther has such an unpretentious style of playing, but he owns. His slide riffs are grittier than, say, Derek Trucks, but always on point. Also, when the freakin’ fire alarm kept going off on Saturday night, Luther won my heart with his sense of humor. “Damn, are we that out of tune?”

Second set – Spencer Dickinson, the collaboration of the Allstars and Jon Spencer. I had no clue what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect to be head-banging, but that’s what happened. Hard, driving guitar from Luther, Cody banging the hell out of the drums, and Chris Chew with bass lines that rattle your rib cage. Then there’s Jon Spencer, who comes across as a man possessed. He has SO MUCH stage presence. Reminded me of Elvis mixed with Les Claypool. You can find a sample at the Yep Roc Records page under Media Room.
Spencer Dickinson – That’s A Drag

After a short break, the Allstars return to the stage (sans Spencer until the encores). They really get into that good ‘ole southern rock groove. The funky, bluesy jams combined with lyrics like “Shake what your Mama gave you,” make it near impossible to stand still. And it’s cool as shit to see Cody playing his electric washboard.There are certain FABULOUS details of these evenings that are better left unsaid, so let me just leave it at this - I'm hooked!