Tuesday, March 8, 2016

City Winery & WFUV Present Nada Surf at City Winery in SoHo

Nada Surf (noun, verb):"It’s actually referring to something much more existential, it's just surfing on nothing. Being lost in your head or in your imagination but you know, whenever I listen to music I always find myself off somewhere. Somewhere in space. You know, in mental space and it's a reference to that.-Matthew Caws

What is there to say about a band like Nada Surf? Consisting today of, Matthew Caws, Ira Elliot, Doug Gillard, and Daniel Lorca, Nada Surf were a post-grunge infant riding the wave of that moment in time.  Awash in the mid to late 90's alt/grunge/anti-rock, they existed. Unlike Alice in Chains, Soul Asylum or arguably the biggest blow up of the era Nirvana, Nada Surf just kept existing. Admittedly towards the end of my dalliance in high school this group was Popular

Honestly until they made a highly anticipated splash on a Monday night in March at City Winery, the Nada Surf wave had all but cast out to open waters for me. I was caught up in the Lilith Fair, PC, folkie experience, and didn’t really take to notice Nada Surf. While they continued to make records, tour the world, develop quite the following and become even more popular in Europe, I was falling under the spell of Tricky and Massive Attack. 

While they self-produced, took hiatuses, and reconnected, I remained inept. They have made quite the career for themselves; what have I done over the same time period? I don’t mean to get too cerebral here but that was really the takeaway from this show for me. These were artists who burst onto the scene with a racy video, washed out distortion, and pillaged the spoils of this time. They could have, like so many other bands before them, exploded, broken up, gotten back together, been cast in and out of rehab, and remained at the forefront of our insatiable tabloid culture. But they just chose to keep going.  

Of course they stumbled and had their doubtful moments in the trajectory of their careers, but if the acoustic renderings at City Winery in SoHo were any indication, this is a band that hit the timing just right with their first single and then matured. Like fine wine or slowly braised beef, this group took their time and kept at their craft. The career of someone like Beck would draw apt comparisons in this protracted maturation. So now, all these years later Nada Surf were here and so was I.

This was an event at City Winery but it was also an event that was hosted by the radio station WFUV. So to begin the evening someone from WFUV and Caws came out onstage to have a conversation about this very maturation. Caws who now lives in Europe, waxed poetic about growing up in New York City and listening with his own small radio to catch the newest sounds of the day from local stations of the time. He also talked about how the band has grown and stretched out but still manages to return back together, come to a recording studio in Brooklyn every few years and make new music. This is the situation for modern bands today though. Like the band The Postal Service, Nada Surf don’t even all live on the same continent anymore but through the use of digital means they can still come together, share their work, and create amazing music. 

Really though this night wasn’t about their recording process or the maturation of their sound, it was about the songs. The audience was jam packed into City Winery for the earlier of the two shows on a Monday night in March. With the interview out of the way they just got into the making of music.

Cold to See Clear” was their first song they played. From an ad hoc survey of cheers, Caws seemed to glean that many in attendance this evening hadn’t gotten their newest record. The recently released and very good “You Know Who You Are” was available for sale at the merchandise table; undoubtedly this was going to be a hot seller this evening. 

The second song, “Whose Authority” from 2008’s “Lucky” was a lot more familiar. There was a noticeably more upbeat, cheering, grooving vibe happening when they tore into classics.

Keeping up with some of their newer stuff, the third song that they played as “Believe You’re Mine.” This was around the moment I noticed something interesting. This was an “acoustic” show and the sound inside City Winery is totally geared towards that. The rhythm and lead guitars were both acoustics. Even the drummer was playing hand drums on some kind of standing snare with the wrist tambourine included for many songs. But the bass player still had an electric bass. Granted the lead and rhythm acoustic guitars were “plugged in” and everyone could be “heard.” Still, for an acoustic show, it seemed rather bass heavy. 

In keeping with the new and old and new pattern, Caws said that they would reach back in the annals again, playing two goodies from “The Weight is a Gift,” “What Is Your Secret” and “Concrete Bed.”

The show continued on for a bit but rather than stridently take notes for the remainder of the evening, I put my phone away and just enjoyed the performance. City Winery usually allows a lot more leeway in their starting and ending times but because the show I was at was the first of two for the evening, the end did come about too quickly. Still for what it’s worth this rediscovery of a classic band I never really appreciated was well worth the time. City Winery as always remains an amazing venue and Nada Surf’s an exciting group. This band is a group who still know how to rock but also can appreciate the silent spaces between the slides of their reverberating instruments.

Monday, February 29, 2016

City Winery Presents: Jim Weider, G.E. Smith & Jon Herington "Masters of the Telecaster" at City Winery in SoHo

New York, NY 2/28//16

One of the most exhilarating instruments that anyone can play and develop any kind of mastery of is the guitar; second maybe only to the voice. It is still always thrilling to be able to see a really good guitarist or a really good vocalist. This is why guitar players and lead singers tend to take front and center in popular music, rock, punk, metal, alternative, et al. Like I said it’s a thrill to see just one of the greats onstage so when you’ve got three masters of their ax in one show, you can pretty well bet you’re bound to have an amazing time.

So it’s with great anticipation that I sat in the audience at Lower Manhattan’s City Winery on February 28, 2016 to enjoy their Masters of the Telecaster show. Jim Weider, G.E. Smith & Jon Herington all came out to show their chops and entertain the whole house.

Known for his signature bluesy sound, Weider has been subtly shredding for decades. Perhaps best known for his work for 15 years with The Band, Weider has played at places as far flung as The Berlin Wall to places as close to home as “The Bob Dylan Tribute” at Madison Square Garden. He even played at the inaugural for President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Fans of late night comedy will likely recognize Smith as the former floppy haired band director for The Saturday Night Live band; a post he famously held for 10 years. Smith has also recorded and played with the likes of Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Roger Water’s WALL LIVE Worldwide Tour.

Herington is a bandleader in his own right and has enjoyed a great deal of success with the Jon HeringtonBand. However since 1999 he’s been the guitarist of choice for touring and recording with Steely Dan. Herington has also played with the likes of Donald Fagen, Boz Scaggs, Bette Midler, and others.

As a quick aside, for those unfamiliar with the term, the Telecaster is a model guitar from legendary guitar maker Fender. Introduced in 1950 the company calls this model “The One That Started It All,” and the list of musicians who’ve used it can attest to this fact. From Bob Dylan to David Gilmour to Merle Haggard to Chrissie Hynde, Alex Lifeson to Johnny Marr to Keith Richards to Muddy Waters to Jimmy Page to Bruce Springsteen to Joe Strummer, this first commercially successful model electric guitar has graced the hands and the skill of countless musicians.

So it was on this unusually balmy February evening we were all in place to see the Masters of the Telecaster. The arc was to be eclipsed and art was to be shared inside City Winery on Varick Street in Manhattan.

The vibe inside the intimate space prior to the lights going down was characteristically upbeat. While the audience wasn’t nearly as packed as it could have been, it was a Sunday night in winter. Still that didn’t stop the energy for the show. Enthusiastic audience whoops and wails made the space feel far more full. Everyone here wanted to see these three artists shred.

With all that as the lead-in the three ax-men ambled out to the stage at the same time. I wasn’t sure what to expect with these three legends in their own rite, but I certainly didn’t imagine they’d all erupt onstage together. It wasn’t boastful though and in hindsight was totally appropriate. They all took their spots before three front facing microphones and plugged in their guitars.

For a brief moment I feared they would all try and harmonize or something but they used the microphones sparingly and never really in concert. We weren’t here to see them sing we were here to see them play.

As the Academy Awards were going on at the same time, the guitarists were more than aware of this competing entertainment venue. Still, G.E. Smith cast away fears of everything lame when he said. “We’re gonna play something you won't hear at the Oscars; we’re gonna play rock and roll!” With that proclamation the crowed erupted and all in attendance were locked in.

The first song was an instrumental tune that I did not recognize, but the formula was recognizable enough. The three men and their backing bass player (Jeff Hill) and drummer (Randy Ciarlante) evoked a smooth and familiar soul groove. The three leads traded licks with one playing the rhythm line, another soloing and a third adding in where they saw fit. Perhaps it was a bit of lead harmony or perhaps it was a bit of rhythm line punctuation; whatever was needed the three were all there for one another.

This Masters program is something that’s been done before albeit not always the same players. Still you can tell they were familiar with one another as the young lady sitting next to me at City Winery commented. The three moved seamlessly from their featured solo line to supporting rhythm line and back again in virtually every song.

The fun that these musicians were having onstage was electric; even the backing band got were keyed in. Hill joyfully romped along in his black fedora hat while Ciarlante emoted powerfully on even the most deliberate backbeats. The bass players handling was luscious and the tight drummer even changed sticks a number of times; moving from traditional sticks to “rute” drumsticks (thin dowels all bound together for a lighter sound), even subbing in timpani mallets to get the proper ride cymbal crescendos. As a humorous aside, Ciarlante even dropped one of his sticks while playing but didn't miss a beat!

The musicianship was top notch, the camaraderie was terrific, and all in all the sounds were sweet and together. Whether you were stoked from their version of the Sam Cooke classic “A Change is Gonna Come,” or lapped up their cover of Tom Waits “Chocolate Jesus,” or were tickled by their version of Carter Burwell’s score for the Coen Brothers “Blood Simple,” there was an eclectic flow and an inviting ambiance which kept everyone in attendance hungry for more. 

At one point a reflective Smith told a tale about the old Lone Star CafĂ© on 13th St. and how he was invited by the spontaneous live band NRBQ to come down and play with them one night with mere hours to spare. He described his contribution to the evening as “terrible,” but still displayed a definite reverence for the band and a fondness for the old venue.

Mention of Lone Star evoked wails of approval from a segment of the audience and all that got me thinking about where we were sitting. With so many venues opening and closing all the time, this is one of the reasons so many amazing musicians have sought out a space like City Winery. The intimacy, the acoustics, the staff and the audience are all top notch at this SoHo destination.

If you have an interest in finding out more about any of these Masters of the Telecaster, Smith, Weider, and Herington all have their own websites. Folks who want to know about this or future shows from City Winery can sign up for regular updates from the venue. Master of the Telecaster was a lively show and a lot of fun; so it’s worth it to keep your ears open for future activity! 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Keller Williams "KWahtro" at City Winery in SoHo

New York, NY 2/12/16

It was an evening of bone chilling cold on Friday, February 12 but the vibe and the energy coming out of SoHo’s City Winery were rip roaring hot. Keller Williams and his KWahtro brand of “acoustic dance music” with his touring mates Gibb Droll (guitar), Danton Boller (double bass) & Rodney Holmes (drums) came in and laid their own brand of groove down.

Just in case you were wondering what the funk “acoustic dance music” was all about, Williams describes it thus:

“Using my songs as a template for creations involving improvisational bursts of new disco, reggae, drum and bass and jazz swing afro trap, all with two acoustic guitars, double bass, and drums. This project is an attempt to bring my vision to life and as always, to entertain myself onstage while hopefully entertaining you.”

Williams and his brood are nothing if not entertaining. The whole house seemed to really enjoy his self-professed nouveau melding of styles. Being unfamiliar with his body of work before seeing the show, I approached the Varick Street destination with a skeptical eye. However by evenings end even I wanted to “Hula Hoop to the Loop.”  

Williams has a rich history of music and recording that actually reaches back 20 years. He’s got a predictable habit of one word album titles; “Freak,” “Dance,” “Breathe,” “Laugh,” “Home,” and many others leading all the way to his most recent recording “Vape.”  I only call this predictable because he seemed to be solely focused on the music and not really about the pomp and circumstance of his place in the room. His energy and concentration were totally committed to his playing and his art.

Williams called this presentation “acoustic dance music” and it shows. Still, most dance music is simple grooves with lots of repetition. I was more fascinated by his commitment to the intricate rhythms he laid down. He entered the stage barefoot in black trousers and a black t-shirt, spinning. He cut across the stage in something of a figure 8 style all while playing a solo slap guitar full of reverb and funk. He didn’t boastfully call attention to himself; he just kept his joy in the groove.

He stayed out onstage for a couple of songs by himself. His first song  Cadillac" had many of the typical musings of a confused, southern artist. He was trying to get back to some illusive ’59 Convertible Cadillac with tons of speakers. His journey commences with Allah, Buddha, God, Santa, Hare Krishna, and Jesus. The depth of this song is further heightened by the fact that it’s daylight savings time while he’s on the train. The loss of time, energy, and the title car evokes the caustic hopelessness of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot.” Despite the heavier themes gleaned on deeper reading, the spirit of the song was upbeat and fun.

From there he totally switched gears to one of his most recognizable songs, “Doobie in My Pocket.” This song was an anxious meditation in an airport line that he’s left a shirt with a joint in his bag that’s about to be screened and all the possibilities therein. He could get in trouble in a variety of ways.  He even surmises he could lose the joint to some disgruntled airport worker, police officer or even somehow a Starbucks employee who’s on the take. As the song draws to a fervent close he realizes that he’s wearing the shirt with the doobie in his pocket and all is right with the world again. The anticlimax of this tune is that none of his apocalyptic predictions came true and he’s once again free to puff away, for now.

Many of the sounds coming from KWahtro and Keller Williams seemed quite familiar.  Despite his sometimes-exotic presentation this guy owes as much to Don McLean and Jaco Pastorius as he does to Jackson Browne and Weird Al. His sound is one part “Soul Suckin' Jerk” and one part “Lose Yourself to Dance.” Simplistic comparisons are with jam bands like Phish or The Grateful Dead or even bluegrass or country. Still, rather than taking all these mainline sounds and dumbing them down or mucking them up, he uses his electronic synthesizers, plays some fierce fast rhythms on his slap acoustic, and spools out a fresh sound for the refined palette that’s more distillation than dilution. Williams is paying homage to all those who’ve come before him and still keeping the vibe fresh and original.

One of the big caveats on his live shows is that Williams never does any two shows the same. On the evening of the show, I heard more than one of his longtime fans effusively gush to this sentiment. The young woman sitting next to me at City Winery and I struck up a conversation before the show began and her approval was overarching.

Williams kept this show fresh by gradually introducing all of the musicians in his ensemble. He began playing alone; then brought out Droll to play a second guitar line for a few songs. After that he introduced Boller for a couple of tunes before completing the ensemble with the drummer Holmes.

All the while the audience kept their groove going. The young woman next to me became “one with the music.” During “Nepalese Temple Balls” she openly laughed and taking cues form elsewhere in the room began singing along and swayed with the songs. She was not alone; City Winery had a section in the middle of the house where people had cleared a space to begin pulsing and gyrating; it was almost as though we were introducing a 1960’s love-in with Deadhead Dancers leading the charge. However the mood and the atmosphere at City Winery never hiccoughed into a trippy place; everything remained peaceful and pleasant while still energized and enigmatic.

As I reflected I realized that I wouldn't call this acoustic dance music; this seemed to be more like an opera or gradually ascending symphonic movement. Beginning with the quieter solo work this moved up to a duo, then a trio, culminating with the full ensemble. People could dance, but you didn’t have to in order to appreciate the sounds generated.

The band took a break in the middle and came back as a four piece playing tunes that fans will recognize like “Freaker by the Speaker.” Even though the house was packed and everyone really seemed to be enjoying themselves, there seemed to be a bit of sadness in Williams voice when he introduced a “newish” song and noted, “This song may end up on the radio; probably not.” The life of a touring artist can be cruel but with the very supportive group of fans at City Winery, it seemed clear that Keller Williams and his traveling musicians could at least enjoy an evening of revelry.

As for his fellow musicians, everyone seemed to really get into it. When Gibb Droll took on an acoustic guitar solo he tore it up, furiously shredding and turning his clenched grimace skyward in his worship to and from his guitar Gods.

Danton Boller was introduced as not really being all that familiar with the style of music he was playing this night. I don’t know too much about this musician or how long he’d been playing with Keller Williams but he definitely held his own on the standup double bass.

Then there is the matter of Rodney Holmes. This guy is a pretty amazing drummer! Just before the four piece’s finale, Holmes was allotted time on the stage for his own rollicking solo which went on for several minutes. He was equal parts swinging Max Roach finesse and thunderous John Bonham power and he earned his spot on the throne this night.

Keller Williams definitely has a following. People unfamiliar with his style may not appreciate his electronic/acoustic music, but when I watched an older video before the show of his looping himself on top of himself, I recalled something I fell in love with some years ago.

Ingrid Michaelson was a featured performer at the Michael Dorf “Music of REM Tribute Concert” at Radio City Music Hall. This event led to an awesome after-party at the same City Winery where Williams played. But when Michaelson took the Radio City stage she actually looped her own voice as the underlying part of the strings and piano in REM’s “Nightswimming.” Keller Williams use of this tool tonight was sparing. When he did employ it, his interpretation was a little more funky and explosive than graceful and melodic. However this is the new world of music we live in and both approaches lend a captivating effect for the careful listener.

Following the Holmes solo, Williams returned to cover Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” and riff off of the Savage Garden chorus to “I Want You” before the lights came on and the crowd spilled out into the frigid SoHo air.

Keller Williams continues the tour through the spring and even has dates listed out as far as August. If you’re a fan of funky, upbeat, joyous, explosive tunes and you’d like to come get your barefooted groove on, come out and witness the Keller Williams experience! You’ll be glad you did!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Guster, Ben Folds 5, Barenaked Ladies at Mohegan Sun

Montville CT - 7/19/13

So the 1990's are a long time ago in the rearview. Today we have Drake and Gaga, and Bieber, oh my! But back in the 1990's things were simpler. We had east coast/west coast, we had Biggie and Tupac, and we had a bunch of other great musicians. Musicians which it feels like are increasingly not appreciated for their great contributions to the art. 

So it was with some anticipation that my wife and I sauntered up to the bustling area of the Arena at Mohegan Sun to see alt-rockers Guster, The Ben Folds 5, and the Barenaked Ladies. These acts are largely distinct from one another but they all still know how to rock and roll.

There was a pretty low key opening act who we didn't make it inside in time for. I missed this acts name but the one thing I will say is that "opening act" is supposed to get the audience amped up for the show. This opener was nothing like that. A very subdued and mellow set put me in a decidedly languid mood even from the halls of Mohegan Sun.

Then Guster came out and livened things up. The still filtering in crowd responded in kind. Truthfully I had never been a fan of Guster before but I had many friends who were. However the points in their songs when people inexplicably began growling in anticipation were kind of lost on me. I mean I got it when the tempo picked up and the synth began blaring and people in the audience stood up and flailed about in a possessed trance like state but this music felt more like the symphony for a suicide for depressed girls with low self-esteem than anything else. But I guess we all have different tastes. 

Guster kind of redeemed themselves towards the end of their show when a ukulele and trumpet made an appearance for "What You Call Love." It was a catchy tune and I could see their appeal. "This Could All Be Yours" capped off their set and they left the stage in a thunderous blaze.

One spectator nearby me got up and left the show after they played. He raised his hands to the sky as he walked away and proclaimed "I can cry myself to sleep tonight," with some satisfaction. Like I said we all have distinct tastes.

The Ben Folds 5 came out onstage.

Apparently I am a lot more of a fan of Ben Folds than the Ben Folds 5. Most of their songs this night came from their collective catalog and I didn't recognize most of them. Apparently Ben Folds 5 has a new CD out so this tour is in support of that. They did play their breakout hit "Brick" as well as "Landed." But I felt cast out because I didn't recognize most of their songs. One tune "Song for the Dumped" began with a slap bass which was pretty cool. 

One thing which bugged me out was there was a digital clock on the stage that the audience could see. Ben Folds took that to heart and he counted down the last 2 minutes of the show in a narrative fashion which I appreciated.

Then came the Barenaked Ladies. Surprisingly, Barenaked Ladies still put on a good show despite the absence of former front man Stephen Page. They definitely engaged the crowd, performing both old and new tunes mixed with an abundance of welcomed nonsense & humor. This set was not what I expected, which turned out to be a good thing.

But the whole thing felt a bit truncated which kind of bothered me. I guess it's tough to get tours together that make any money but the demarcated fashion of the show really took me out of it. All in all it was great to see these acts together but I just wish there was some deeper integration. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Album Review: Leerone "Heart Shaped Bullets"

The name of the newest Leerone CD is “Heart Shaped Bullets”. This very talented independent singer/songwriter/musician saunters onto this new record, guns blazing. Listeners have been put on notice.

The first song “Use My Lips” has got a slow swagger peppered with synth. The backdrop is the perfect canvas for the singer to come in and breathlessly dominate the lyric.

Later on the record behind a charging guitar Leerone dives into the story of what the narrator would “do to you Suzanne,” were she a man.  The imagined Leerone gender-bending really hits on familiar themes for this singer. So often her songs capitalize on the guy/girl cat and mouse games in love and relationships.

Leerone takes a bit of a turn on a song like “Feel.” This tune begins with the sound of a very old-timey, clock-tower-at-midnight, last dance at the prom love song. By the songs end though the choir behind and her impressive vocal reaches high and fills up the space as though she were leading a revival chorus.

“Cherry Red” has the feel of an industrial/punk song, “She’s Your Bird” and “Pleased to Meet” have the ambling westward sound and story familiar of classic songwriters like Johnny Cash, so that by the time the albums conclusion comes around with “Trouble” we are reminded why we love Leerone. Her elegant breathy voice and high register piano playing are wonderfully melded with some classy production values. The conclusion of “Heart Shaped Bullets” is reflective, sultry and celebratory so that when the talented songstress asks:

“do I wanna gamble,
sit at your table,
be able to find me some trouble?”

As the listener, you are there with her, watching her, captivated. You can’t even help the fact that your leg’s pushing the seat out opposite you.

That’s when you know that you’re about to find yourself in some trouble too.

“Heart Shaped Bullets” is available on iTunes. Connect with Leerone at her website, on YouTube, or MySpace.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Rush: Clockwork Angels Tour 2013: Mohegan Sun Arena

As the rain fell down on Uncasville, Connecticut, the band Rush was getting ready to tear things up in Mohegan Sun’s Arena. Rush are currently continuing their Clockwork AngelsTour and while some may even question where Rush has been, as evidenced tonight, there are plenty of people who follow the bands movement closely. Moreover the band is still in the sweet spot of being great performers and talented showman where they have lingered for years.

The Canadian trio of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart have been kicking around since 1974 in their current incarnation, the band taking its name all the way back to the late 1960’s. One thing that’s clear though is that their synergy has never been stronger.

I am a casual Rush fan (I can’t pick up the title and lyrical content of each song in seconds as the vast majority of my fellow concert goers could) but I have been since I first heard them in the late 1980’s. One of the first cassette tapes I ever had was Rush’s 1981 masterpiece “Moving Pictures.” Like Michael Jackson, U2, and Rush. Those were my first three cassette tapes ever. I was an aspiring drummer and I was mesmerized by Peart’s impressive chops. Chops he still has today.

The Arena was pretty well packed, something I was a tad surprised about for a Thursday night in May. Still I shouldn’t have been taken aback as Rush fans rank high on the list of caravan devotees, somewhere between the callous disregard I noted recently atan Eddie Vedder show for the Pearl Jam lead singer and maybe a band like Phish or the big daddy, The Grateful Dead.
 Everyone inside the near capacity arena was on their feet mouthing the words bopping along such that the aluminum risers that our seats were on were waving in time with the flavor of the music.

The girl to my right was maybe 15 or so and was here with her dad; they both loved every minute of this show. Suddenly it occurred to me that dad was probably listening to Rush when he was her age or younger. They both shared the enthusiasm for the songs, mimicked the huge synth notes, guitar lines, and drum solos and sang out their favorite lines together.

Geddy Lee was gracious enough welcoming the audience but all three of them just seemed intent on playing. Lee at one point promised we gluttons for punishment that the band had “about six million songs to play,” to which the enthusiastic crowd roared. So the band got back up and began playing again.

A familiar AOR radio song like “Limelight” evoked a kind of swell from the audience that would be repeated a bunch more times throughout the evening.

Whenever Peart would hit one of his thundering cymbal crashes or Lifeson would articulate one of his signature riffs dozens of ARMS would flail wildly in the packed audience as though they were the ones controlling the sound. It was quite a sight to behold.

The band took the set in halves. Right before the end of the first half Lee began riffing some kind of an extended slap bass guitar solo followed by a musical ensemble number. Towards the end of the number though Lee and Lifeson ducked offstage and Peart took his turn playing a commanding and enchanted solo.

Rush even went so far as to set off explosions. What started out as some red flares, just before their intermission, wound up as one frighteningly big explosion.

This tour will continue now through August in the United States and Canada and may extend even beyond that. If you are looking for impressive musicianship, enthusiastic crowds, and a community who loves playing and hearing music then get out to the 2013 Clockwork Angels Tour!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Green Day - Mohegan Sun - 4/6/13

Montville, CT - 4/6/13:

Punk impresarios Green Day recently came through Mohegan Sun Casinos Arena in Connecticut. Fans young and old came out to enjoy the set. Many were here on one end of the ball field with all that rancor and discord nothing more than a distant memory. Others were still living it and caught up in the moment.

Following the opening act, Best Coast, who you can read about separately here, the energy in the arena began to swell. “Bohemian Rhapsody” hit the PA and the whole house began singing along with Freddie Mercury’s tender missive. The swooning chords of Brian May’s guitar line and our individual personal affiliations with the song did not get in the way of the shared experience. It would not be the last time a similar energy would take up the room.

With the house lights still up the playful “drunk Easter Bunny” alighted to the stage to the further scoring of the Ramones “Hey Oh Let’s Go.” Without further ado, Billie Joe, Mike, Tre and their backing musicians came blazing to the stage in a furious swooping energy.

They opened their set with “99 Revolutions,” and Billie Joe commanding the audience, “Let's go crazy!” He is still as full of energy and enthusiasm as a child on Pixy Stix. It would not be the last time he would challenge his audience to push themselves further, get engaged, and live the moment.

During the bridge of “99 Revolutions” he asked for the lights to be brought up and he started a wave. Speaking almost like a dictator or a fraternity brother he derided us all; “This is not a fucking computer! This is rock n roll!”

Even though there were many younger people in the audience, the fact that “Green Day” has been playing music ¼ century is not lost on the lead singer.

“Tonight this is all we fucking have right here,” he reminded us. “There is no school!” He lingered on that for a second before quickly adding “…there is no work!” He hopefully realizes that even those who were born in 1993, Green Day's breakout year, likely are out of or nearly out of school and have work obligations.  

There was a moment during “Letterbomb,” when the lyric “It’s not over till you're underground,” seemed to evoke something in him. Perhaps his frustration with his own mortality. Perhaps something else. Who knows but when he squeezed the microphone from his hand and flung it to the orchestra pit offstage, he had a moment. A stagehand quickly brought out a replacement and Billie Joe acknowledged it.

“Everybody's got a moment when it’s not fuckin perfect,” he mused. “Fuck perfect! Give me some trauma give me some hurt.” A cheer erupted from the audience, “…you know what I'm taking about!”

There were moments of candor and moments of scorn, but for the most part he was the audience’s biggest cheerleader. He kept yelling out “CONNECTICUT!!” and engaging the crowd by holding up his guitar in one-armed punk defiance.

More than once an old school moshing session got underway in the middle of the floor level audience. This one kid kept thrashing and shoving people and it would go from just him, to 8 or 9 to 20 or more and then to no one. It was quite entertaining.

Billie Joe had people coming up to sing at various points during the night. But one of the biggest audience sing-alongs of the night was the first verse of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” He set everyone up for it and when we all responded with eruptions of melody he just got down on his knees and kissed the ground to the audience as though he were praying to Allah.

He stood up, smiled, and said “Life’s not pretty but it sure is beautiful.”

It was right around this time that the band went into a mash-up session of cover songs. They started out with “Shout,” by the Isley Brothers, which led into “Time is On My Side,” and “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones, and another arm waving sing along to “Hey Jude,” before circling back to the "little bit louder now" portion of "Shout."

After two full hours of breaking us down and making us question ourselves, our motives, and our whole reason for living our lives,  Green Day were done with their set. One of the last songs they played was “X-Kid” which includes the lyrics:

“Hey, little kid did you wake up late one day?
And you’re not so young, but you’re still dumb
And you’re numb to your old glory, but now it’s gone.”

And when Billie Joe repeated the lyric, “here goes nothing, the shouting’s over and out over and out again,” a reasonable guess would have been that the show was over right there.

Maybe just to stick a flag in the turd they played a little longer. That is the message which Green Day carries with them on this their 20 year anniversary of songs from their debut album. We will be done playing when we are done playing.

And we will all still be here, your loyal followers, listening until that time is up.