|Live Reviews October 2008|
Quick-links to sub-sections:
Seasick Steve - Royal Albert Hall, London - 1st October 2008
Tom Russell - Musician, Leicester - 2nd October 2008
We Dreamed America | Mathew Ord, Wes Finch and the Dirty Band, Hey Negrita
Katy Lied – The Musician, Leicester – 8th October 2008
Stephen Stills -The Brighton Centre - 10th October 2008
Stephen Stills - Shepherds Bush Empire, London - 11th October 2008
Catfish Keith -The State Bar, Glasgow - 14th October, 2008.
Glen Campbell featuring Debby Campbell - Fairfield Halls, Croydon - 20th October 2008
Stephen Stills - Shepherds Bush Empire, London - 20th October 2008
Seasick Steve - Barrowland Glasgow - 21st October 2008
Richie Havens -The Forum, London - 23rd October 2008
|Live reviews this month for Seasick Steve and Tom Russell, We Dreamed America, Stephen Stills, Katy Lied, Catfish Keith, Glen Campbell featuring Debby Campbell (!) and Richie Havens.|
|Seasick Steve - Royal Albert Hall, London - 1st October 2008|
Review by Jonathan Aird
OK, if back in January The Astoria seemed like a big gig then this is a really big gig - they've let a bum into the Royal Albert Hall, and the guy's on the stage ! Seasick Steve has become something of a phenomenon - the release of his third album in multi-formats, and his series of dates in October being presaged by lengthy spreads in Uncut and Mojo as well as the Sunday supplements. His sudden rise to fame maybe reflects a desire for something "real" in music - and I don't mean by that I have to believe he's still a train hopping hobo - clearly that's his back story and a period of his life that is long past. It's more that his battered and Bo Diddley like home made guitars and the pared back boogie blues he plays coupled with on stage enthusiasm provide an antidote to music which is emotionally empty and offer only an eventually unsatisfying slick and flash.
The new album, however, shows a slightly worrying move towards "production values" and a wider musical palette - female backing singers, flutes, that kind of thing. Perhaps of more concern than these musical departures is the number of non-original songs - and that the second CD on the double CD release is both short (27minutes) and almost completely talking / recorded background sounds. Is Seasick running out of musical stories to tell ?
Just to get this out of the way - it's an all seater gig, and the arena seats are small wooden chairs that are tightly wedged in. It's none too comfortable, and it's hard to actually stand up - and that's not going to be popular in non-tiered seats. Quite a mixed audience - really from teenagers to pensioners, some in T-shirts, some dressed up, and some looking like they've come straight from the city in business suit and tie.
The opener was Amy LaVere and band - a lady leading that classic power trio line-up : guitar, drums and upright bass. I got the feeling that this was a pretty big gig for them. They hailed from Memphis and their music was a highly pleasing amalgam of americana/psychedelic blues guitar/rockabilly with a bit of '40's sophistication thrown in on the vocals. Great visual line up of freak guitarist, clean cut drummer and waif like singer/bass player. As well as singing Amy was all over that bass - which towered over her as she whacked thumped danced with and caressed it. Great singer too with a sobbing voice which could turn sultry in a second. A series of great songs - mostly of love and drinking and random violence - Killing Him (didn't stop the love), Day like Any (where this Amy sounds a bit like Amy Winehouse), Pointless Drinking - "this is the part where if we were all in a bar we'd have a toast" got us lifting imaginary glasses, Washing Machine, Overcome (leaving is messy - that's why I haven't done the dishes), a beautiful song called Nightingale, Never been Sadder, and the handy relationship advice of Take 'em or Leave 'em ("take my advice, if you want something nice, just don't act so desperate about it, just take 'em or leave 'em") was a fine example of Amy in sultry mode, and there was also a fine cover of Michelle Shocked's If love were a train.
She's touring with Steve and doing some shows of her own - really very well worth checking out. Her two CDs are also both excellent; their covers sum her music up quite well - on one she's an innocent lost in a wreak of a house with only an upright bass and a small bag to her name, on the other she's a hot momma totting a glitter gun.
After the interval the main act. The stage had been decorated with a backdrop combining Steve's face and the logo of his new album (started off with nothing and I've still got most of it left), otherwise there was an assorted clutter of drums, mic stands, chairs and musical "things". As the lights went down the strains of an acoustic guitar filled the auditorium. Would it be a new version of yellow Dog or Things Go Up ? No. Amazing Grace. As the gospel singers kicked in and Steve took the stage there was a roar of applause, but I had a sinking feeling. Things picked up with Cheap, which was as down and dirty as the original, and carried on pretty good into Cut My Wings. The band was a flexible thing with the (excellent) drummer on and off, someone doing washboard and assorted spoons, Steve's son on marching drum and shaky things, and the two female backing singers from Nashville. Steve didn't do a lot of talking – he did try and phone a friend in the states, which failed despite dialling assistance from the audience. However he was obviously pleased to be playing such a world renowned venue, and commented that he was remembering it all “‘cos I’ll never be here again”. The mostly good natured hecklers treated him like a mate, but, sheet! They ain't never met him y'all (and it got a bit tiresome after a bit).
And this should be the point where I say "it was all good", but although there were sparks - for example Happy Man with the whole band was far superior to the album version - the night never really caught fire for me. The girl from the audience bit for Walking Man (possibly the weakest item in Steve's songbook) was a damper, the walk through the audience on One True (a tribute to Steve's dog) and the excellent Xmas Prison Blues ("I don't know about the blues and that...but Christmas day in prison that's the blues alright") were highs. Save me - on the 1 string diddly bow - just seemed a bit flat - when Steve finally threw it to the floor in apparent exasperation it was a relief. Although the new album was heavily represented (also got Started out with nothin, St Louis Slim, Thunderbird and Chiggers) there was a reasonable amount off the previous albums (but no Things Go Up or Hobo Blues) - with Fallen off a rock and Save Me also getting an outing. I'm so lonesome I could cry - a duet with Amy LaVere was superb.
The encore of Dog House Boogie finally had the audience standing, and I appreciated feeling the blood circulating in my feet again. When Steve sat down, as if a switch had been flicked, the 200 people in front of me sat down in unison. I could have remained standing, but that would probably have attracted a rousing chorus of "sit down you ***** " from those in the flat seating behind me. It was a good dog house boogie though.
Steve and the band came out one more time to acknowledge the applause, and Steve took a walk through the crowd shaking hands and signing CDs. Someone remarked to me that "not many stars would do that", and although I nodded I wouldn't really call him star. I guess that's what going on Jools Holland can do. Overall, a good but not a great night, partly because I'm not won over to the new album but mostly because Steve oeuvre is not suited to subtle appreciation of nuances in the playing. It's shake your butt nasty country blues, and it's hard to shake your butt when you're wedged in so tight you can barely move. Good to make the acquaintance of Amy LaVere's music though.
|Tom Russell - Musician, Leicester - 2nd October 2008|
Review by Alan Taylor
Described by some as the “greatest living songwriter” and “the closest thing to a real live Johnny Cash”, Tom Russell made a welcome return to a packed “Musician” on a rainy Autumn night. Ably supported throughout by the relatively youthful, fresh-faced Michael Martin on guitar, mandolin and vocals, Russell clearly on form, berated his audience early for their half hearted singing on “Stealing electricity”. Referring to the Leicester faithful as “Ya bastards” might have caused the demise of lesser artists, but merely served to endear him further to a partisan crowd.
Warm and friendly throughout he delighted the hushed attentive room. Playing his trademark black mother of pearl (? Collings) guitar, he ran smoothly through a back catalogue of his Country Americana, Tex-Mex borberline, politico tunes. With a delivery in the classical chocolate covered drone, occasionally cracking into a croak like rasp, he flitted through most of the old favourites most of which feature on the new “Tom Russell Anthology – Veterans Day” which has simply got to be one of the best £15 any self respecting ‘muso’ could spend. A masterful “California snow” I swear brought a tear to the eye, of many in the room.
With his table full of “Merch” pretty well half gone by the break Russell had clearly earned his “pint of good ale”. Returning after the break, he lost no momentum, interspersing his songs with hearty banter, including his own self deprecating attempts to pronounce English towns such as Bury and Leicester. He gave his own country a fair bit of stick in much the same way as his harder hitting songs do, typified by “Who’s gonna build your wall?” and “Ash Wednesday”. His “stadium rocker” - “The road it gives, the road it takes away” raised the level, before he attempted (“I’ve not played this for a long, long time”) a request for “The Dutchman” with the expected polish.
Listening to the encore of “Haley’s Comet” I reflected on quite why this talented artist, novelist, singer, performer and political commentator has perhaps not been fully recognised. A delighted audience gave a rapturous reception as he left the stage, his CD/Art table emptying in the rush to take a little Tom Russell home. Long may he continue, long may he have something to say. With more UK dates due, miss him at your folly.
|We Dreamed America | Mathew Ord, Wes Finch and the Dirty Band, Hey Negrita|
Review by Paul Villers
“We Dreamed America” film review with live performances from Mathew Ord, Wes Finch and the Dirty Band and Hey Negrita
Many of our readers will by now be familiar with the documentary movie ”We Dreamed America” concentrating as it does on our own ‘turf’ of Americana as purveyed by home grown talent. This, however, was Americana-Uk’s first opportunity to see and review the movie first hand (and since we are the ‘…home of Americana, alt.country and alternative…’ the it’s about time we did).
In the perfectly intimate and ‘alternative chic’ setting of Taylor John’s House in Coventry we purchased our beers, waited for the projector to be fired up and settled down for an hour and a half or so of interviews, performances and discussion of just why it is that so many British artists feel the need to incorporate ‘american’ influences into their work. In some ways of course this is a non-starter of an argument. Our popular music scene has always, always drawn on the music from over the Atlantic – blues, jazz, rock and roll and the rest. The interesting thing about what we might loosely term ‘roots’ music is the fact that the Americans owe us over here something of a debt in regards to the influence that European (particularly British) folk music has had. This was mentioned far too briefly within the movie. Still, it was a reasonable overview of the ‘scene’, shot in loving black and white presumably to add a little veritas to the proceedings (although if they wanted to go the whole hog you’d have thought that they would sepia toned the thing).
Now you are never going to please all of the people all of the time and within a genre as diverse as this the film makers were on a complete hiding to nothing in selecting artists (and other assorted luminaries such as record company types, journalists and the rest) who might even remotely be considered representative. On balance I thought that it was probably as diverse as it was ever going to be: Alabama 3, Kitty Daisy and Lewis, The Broken Family Band, Hey Negrita… Matthew Ord was a particularly good choice since he did at least give a nod to the Brit/American/Brit influence spoken about above. The point is that any of our readership could have provided a dozen names apiece who they consider more representative of the style/genre – and all of them would have been correct. Someone has to make the decisions though and the filmmakers are to be congratulated, on the whole, for presenting a positive and upbeat overview. That was to some extent tempered by the more parsimonious offerings of the Americans involved (and what the hell were Little Feat doing in there? Do they know a second cousin of the director or something?) but that’s just the nature of things.
My view: as good as it was going to be, all things considered.
Having digested the celluloid it was time to move on to real life, flesh and blood stuff. This was something of a novel event: having some of the protagonists within the film appearing before you ‘doing it for real’. A master stroke as it turned out in fact since Matthew Ord, whose appearance was a highlight of the movie, is indeed the stone cold classic (if somewhat shy and retiring) genius he appeared to be. Boy that guy can really play (and sing and interpret songs). With just his voice and guitar he moved seamlessly from continent to continent, from musical tradition to musical tradition with effortless ease. A real prospect this fella and one that went down a storm with the knowledgeable and appreciative audience.
Next up were local hotshot talents Wes Finch and The Dirty Band – everybody’s new favourites (at least everybody that I can persuade to listen to them). Regular Dirty Band watchers might have been surprised to see that Libby Fielding, chanteuse and dancer extraordinaire, has left for pastures new to be ‘replaced’ by a pedal steel. Hmmmm…I’m still pondering that one but on tonight’s evidence the band are going from strength to strength – less of their usual swing but more of a funky/bar room feel to proceedings (and two new numbers got an airing providing evidence if it be needed that the future is particularly rosy down the Dirty Band way). Singer guitarist Wes was in particularly fine form, belting it out in fine gravel voiced style.
In a show as tightly scheduled as this one there is little time to stand on the ceremony of encores and we move straight into the headliners Hey Negrita. I’ve always wondered about that moniker since these guys are in no sense a Stones tribute act. Instead they plough their own furrow of stomping, countryish, bluesy funk. That, in addition to their booted and suited (or barefoot in the case of the harp player) stage presence, made this ‘last show of the tour’ a real event. The ridiculously talented Matthew Ord joined Felix and the boys as a bona fide band member, the lot of them playing it as if their lives depended on it and the proverbial stops were well and truly pulled out. An undoubted crowd pleasing moment was the harp duet between Brian Lee (Dirty Band) and Captain Bliss (Hey Negrita). It was that sort of night really – guaranteed to put huge smiles on the faces of the paying punters, which is what its all about.
|Katy Lied – The Musician, Leicester – 8th October 2008|
Review by Jeremy Searle
“Which DI should I use?” is not a question you want to hear from the stage, or indeed one you want to ask just after you’ve finished the first song of your first ever gig. Nevertheless, despite technical and tuning gremlins Katy Lied’s debut is a small triumph. Playing as a duo rather than the full band, Dan Britton’s presence and vocals command the room, while writer Duncan Hamilton adds tasteful lead guitar. They play classic folk-rock with added Californian splashes, so there’s hooks and harmonies galore and the singles “Late Arrival” and “Coming Soon” in particular are irresistible feel good music, bouncy, accessible and with something to say, and the room responds accordingly.
Ace at the lighter stuff, they also venture into more serious “statement” songs like “Crash & Burn” but these are lyrically weak and rather exposed in the acoustic format without the full band sound to support them. The driving “Waiting On The Line” and the delicately beautiful “Waltz For Beginners”, a perfect “shall I ask her/shan’t I ask her” song, bring it all back together though and the brief set gets well-merited cheers. A band to look out for.
|Stephen Stills -The Brighton Centre - 10th October 2008|
Review by Andy Riggs
Opening the UK leg of his brief tour in Brighton, I last saw Stephen Stills with Crosby & Nash a few years ago and at that time he looked overweight and his voice had deteriorated from the heights of the late 60s/early 70s peak.
So it was good to see him looking healthy after his prostrate cancer scare earlier this year - he’s lost some weight (as he told the audience his special diet ELF ‘eat less food’) and his voice sounded much better tonight.
In my opinion some of Still’s work ranks alongside the very best of American music in the last 40 years, from his early work with Buffalo Springfield (For What It’s Worth, Bluebird, Rock ‘n Roll Woman) followed by his outings with his mates CSN (Suite Judy Blue Eyes, Helplessly Hoping), CSNY (Carry On, 4 +20), plus his first two solo records, the first of which is a stone cold classic.
But it has to be the majestic double Manassas record from 1972 that stands up as his finest hour and is seen today as a template of Americana music. A dazzling record spread over four sides (vinyl) with Stills showing his ability to play, sing and write country, rock, blues, bluegrass and folk. I hear and read many of the accolades placed at Gram Parsons' door but Stephen Stills contribution overshadows by GP by a country mile.
Of course we know now he would never scale those peaks again as egos, drink and drugs took their toll. But when you see and hear Stephen play guitar (electric and acoustic) you realise what an under rated guitarist Stills is.
The show tonight is split into two parts, acoustic and electric with the band featuring Joe Vitale (drums) and Kenny Passarreli (bass). The first segment opened with Helplessly Hoping with Stephen showing that his voice can reach some of the heights from his halcyon days; also included in the set were Change Partners and a moving Daylight Again/Find The Cost of Freedom, one of the best anti-war songs ever written: ‘Find the of freedom buried in the ground’. The finale for the acoustic set was a superb version of Suite Judy Blue Eyes; ‘wooden’ music at its very best.
The electric set showed why Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Neil Young sparred with Stephen in the early 70s. In fact I understand Graham Nash has uncovered an unreleased record with Hendrix and Stills which is planned for a release in 2009 – Graham Nash is also working on a Stills box set.
Covering electric versions of BS, CSN and solo Stills, the set was brilliant with Stills looking comfortable with the band and at east with the audience and perhaps more importantly with himself.
The evening finished with a rather embarrassing ‘audience’ participation of ‘Love the One You’re With’. It was great to Stephen back live and in good shape.
|Stephen Stills - Shepherds Bush Empire, London - 11th October 2008|
Review by Jonathan Aird
During the 2005 CSN tour of the UK Stephen Stills (incidentally - yet another Steve for this year !) said he planned to come back in the autumn of 2006. Well, two years late is better than never !
The baroque splendour of the Shepherds Bush Empire is packed out with a predominantly male audience of age predominantly 40plus. And, I suppose, if the thought of Stephen Stills conj ours up Manassas and Buffalo Springfield as much as CSN(Y) then it's hardly surprising. Restrained sounds of chamber music - perfectly in keeping with the rococo plasterwork but strangely at odds with the seething mass of anticipation that is the crowd - waft around the auditorium. There are camera crews present - at first a concern as I don't want to pay to watch a video being made, but later a pleasure as they don’t get in the way and I'll be able to buy the DVD at some future point. Oh, I've given the end away - this is indeed set to be a night to remember.
Steve and band come on stage just before 8 o'clock, Stephen dressed wearing a khaki military style jacket over his dark shirt and jeans. They launched straight way into "Helplessly Hoping", and the strained and cracking vocals can't overcome the otherwise musically fine band. Silently hope dies all about me - Stills is not in good voice. This is not what we'd wished for - but there's strong applause none the less. The band left the stage, leaving Stills alone with an acoustic guitar for the rest of the first set. Stephen is pretty relaxed and jokey in a self deprecating way, as if to make up for all those years where he was labelled an arrogant egotist. He introduced "The ballad of the Treetop Flyer" then launched into a superb rendition of this song on which, magically, his vocals are not at all bad, in fact they're getting good. A series of guitar changes sees the signature guitar (Stephen Stills signed in pearl decoration up the fret board) on and off the stage, whilst the music just gets better and better - Dylan's "Girl in the North Country" is followed up with a superb "Change Partners", on which I thought that at the least the bass player had come back on stage - but no, it's all Stevie !
The whole set was a great blend of CSN and solo tunes - "Blind Fiddler" was a long country blues, which Still's said he'd been playing for years whittling the 200 verses down to just one verse, but tonight we got a much longer version (but not 200 verses!). And joy of joys - "Johnny's Garden" from the first Manassas album - with a introductory explanation of how it was really about a gardener at the house he'd bought from Ringo Starr - that, he mused, was in the banker belt so maybe he could get it back at a cut price now - and not some hippy as American audiences seemed to think. The set was closed out with Daylight Again (the extended version of Find the cost of freedom from the CSN album of the same name), truly beautiful despite his not being able to hit the highest notes any more, and finally the pure bliss of Suite:Judy Blue Eyes.
So, how was the second half going to go, with the band back on the stage ? "You're still here then" quipped Steve as he launched into an epic "Isn't it about time?" from the (unfairly) maligned second Manassas album. And then a died and gone to heaven moment - the opening bars of "Rock and Roll Woman", I've got to say that superlatives just don't do justice to how good this was. Steve spent the whole set pulling better and better solos out of the bag as he prowled the stage, proof if it was needed that he's a true guitar god and total master of his instrument. A couple of more modern songs, a favourite Tom Petty number of Stephen's and the only song off his most recent album - "Wounded World" - which missed Graham Nash's vocals a little, but compensated for it with an enormous serving of ace guitar. A real joy. As if we hadn't been treated enough the closing out of the set with another Springfield song, "Bluebird", was just the cherry on top of the icing over the tastiest of gateaux.
The first encore - the morally dubious but infectious "Love the one you're with" garnered the raucous audience sing along which simply emphasized why we weren't cut out to be top rock singers. Picks and sticks were thrown into the crowd as the band left , but the crowd were having none of it, we thought Stephen had one more in him for tonight, and the band duly reappeared after a lengthy ovation. When, during plugging in, Stephen stated that "It's f**ked the f**king things f**ked" there was a sense that perhaps all wasn't going to plan. "The monitor’s gone, so we're back here on the 20th, goodnight". Hmm, no, we'd still like one more, and a continued round of applause gave the tech's enough time to sort the situation well enough that a scorching "Darkstar" could be offered up to the enthusiastic horde.
Overall, what a truly amazing gig, and yes, I'm going to be there on the 20th. How it'll manage to hold a candle to this gig I don't know, but I'm hopeful, man. Stephen Stills is on tour around the country this week - if you can you really should. The next night I got a first watch of Deja Vu, the recent CSNY tour movie, and seeing the aircraft hangers and stadiums they were playing really made me appreciate the chance to have seen Stills at such close range.
Keyboards : Todd Caldwell
Drums : Joe Vitale
Bass - Kenny Passarelli (I think)
(Ballad of the) Treetop Flyer
Girl in the North Country
(Ballad of the ) Blind Fiddler
Suite : Judy Blue Eyes
Isn't it about time ?
Rock and Roll Woman
Wrong thing to do (Tom Petty Song)
Make Love to you
Encore 1 : Love the one you're with
Encore 2: Darkstar
|Catfish Keith -The State Bar, Glasgow - 14th October, 2008.|
Review by Paul Kerr
A regular visitor to these shoes, Catfish Keith, originally from Indiana, provided an evening of virtuoso guitar playing as he stormed through a number of country blues songs, originals and old standards that by turn thrilled or had the hair standing on the back of your neck.
A recording artist since the early 80s, Keith has had plenty of time to hone his show, with anecdotes about legendary musicians he has known and a barkers talent for describing some of the risqué euphemisms favoured over the years (hambone comes to mind here). From the start his guitar playing dazzled as on “Poor Boy” finger picking heaven. Swapping between an amplified bespoke acoustic and a steel-bodied guitar for slide playing he hammers hell out of those guys. Vocally he whoops and hollers and grunts, all he while keeping beet with an amplified floor mat. While the blueprint is very much American country blues he played several tunes by or inspired by Bahamian guitarist Joseph Spence (an influence on Ry Cooder). Less riff driven and more syncopated musically these added an extra dimension to the show.
Stuck in a very hot and very crowded bar basement a full crowd lapped all of this up. Towards the end a medley of “Dark is the Night” and “Bye and bye, I’m Going to See the King” geared the show up several notches, simply outstanding!
Some folk might think that going to see a performer like Catfish Keith is akin to going to a history lecture. On this showing it is simply a first class entertainment, joyous, raucous and, yes, it might send you on a historical trail to hear some of those originals but that in itself is no bad thing.
|Glen Campbell featuring Debby Campbell - Fairfield Halls, Croydon - 20th October 2008|
Review by Andy Riggs
Aged 72, Glen Campbell has managed to record some great interpretations of classic Jimmy Webb songs. But let’s not forget that as a studio player Glen played on several recordings by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Roy Clark and Elvis Presley. He also had a stint in the Beach Boys during the mid 60s and despite his ‘MOR/AOR tag’ that has been attached in his later years, there was much to enjoy tonight.
On this tour Campbell has been promoting his latest and very well received record ‘Meet Glen Campbell’ featuring covers of some more ‘contemporary’ songs from the likes of Jackson Browne, Tom Petty, Foo Fighters, U2, Lou Reed and Green Day.
Within the first ten minutes we had ‘Galveston’ and ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’, and personally I would have gone home content with that. Glen’s voice was holding up well and his guitar work throughout the night was quietly impressive, and was seen at its best on a fabulous reworking of Mason Williams' ‘Classical Gas’.
Campbell was supported by his daughter Debby and the band included Ken Skaggs, Russ Skaggs, Todd Youth, Gary Bruzzese and musical director T.J.Kuenster.
I’ve just ordered a copy of his new record, but it was left to ‘Wichita Lineman’ to seal the night for me. MOR never sounded so good.
|Stephen Stills - Shepherds Bush Empire, London - 20th October 2008|
Review by Jonathan Aird
A wet and windy autumn night makes queuing outside the Shepherds Bush Empire a less than pleasant experience, but warmed by an authentic Aussie Pie (low fat pastry - so it's even healthy - yeah, right) I'm ready to face anything for a second evening in the company of the esteemed Stephen Stills. Having been thrilled to see him on "Later with Jools" last Friday I've basically been kept in a constant state of Stillsmania since the 11th of October.
I'd booked a circle seat - because just before the extra London date was announced I had been to see Buddy Guy - well, I'd attended the gig, I'd actually seen very little - and so I'd decided to hedge my bets. For the 11th I already had a stalls standing ticket, so I reasoned I should get a circle ticket for this one. As it had turned out I'd done pretty well on the 11th, but I'd taken a decision not to be disappointed whatever happens. Whatever happens is whatever happens (as Nash would say). Sheer profundity (as Crosby would add). I'm up for a good time, and I have no reason to expect anything but a good time.
A correction on the last review - somehow I managed to leave "For what it's worth" off the 2nd half set list - it was the closer too. Doh ! Well, it was there before and it was there again, as was the rest of the set - it was an identical set. Which was fine. Being drawn predominantly from his Golden Era, that period from about 1967 to 1975 when he could do no wrong, and leavened with an old folk tune and a couple of well chosen covers it's a well thought out set. I'm surprised that there is only one song off his last album - Man Alive - which (a couple of clunkers aside) is a solid body of work. But which song would I ditch to make room ? It does make me wonder what would have happened if CSN had stuck to what they were good at and not tried to stay modern sounding through the late '70's and the 1980's - would they have disappeared ? Would they have made neglected albums that would now be regarded as classics ? Who knows ? I'm just happy for this unexpected late flowering that, starting from Nash's 2002 solo album, seems to have awakened Crosby and Stills to pull out their best work in years.
This time the piped music was classic Chicago blues, which seemed much more in keeping. When Stills came out with the band and launched into "Helplessly Hoping" the good news was that he was in better voice from the start than last time, and this continued throughout. Without seeming hurried he bashed through the 1st set in about 45 minutes - I was shocked at how quickly the time went. It was a spell binding performance. The intimacy of just Stills and a guitar producing stripped down versions of classic songs is easy to appreciate.
Stills was in a good mood, joking about his younger lovelorn self before launching into "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" (the band came on for the last segment of this which was a fantastic high energy set closer), laughing at the closing lines of "4+20" : "I find myself just wishing that my life would cease ......but it didn't, and I have 7 kids to prove it. Or is it 8 ?". His put down of a shouted interruption to his introduction to "The Blind Fiddler" was perhaps more typical Stevie Stills ("now you've ruined my joke...so shut the f**k up unless it's funny"). That'll need editing out of the DVD (they were filming again). But mostly it was good natured - saying how much he'd loved living in England for 5 years he had to add except for about this time of year until May, and again saying how he could maybe buy his old house back "then I could be the first person ever to retire to England...........well come on, this weather, it's b****cks".
"Change Partners" was again a stand out song, one guitar producing such a full rich sound it was hard to credit that he was playing alone. For some reason he missed off the last verse, which was a pity. Great set though - "Daylight Again" brought a hushed stillness to the auditorium; Suite Judy Blue Eyes set it on fire. Superb.
The full band set was just fabulous - " Isn't it about time" is such a superb song, and again the opening of "Rock and Roll Woman" just had me overcome with joy - what a song, and what blistering solos Stills was building into everything. It's not just volume and flash, because Stills can actually play guitar and has mastered folk, blues and rock - so there is a depth to the playing that can make it hypnotic, forceful, or exhilarating and sometimes all three in the same song, keeping these well known bits of music vital and alive. So-so songs like "Make Love to you" and "Darkstar" were lifted to some sort of magnificence by the added guitar breaks - and with a very professional band everything was lit up with new depth and colour. Ah, I was having a good time, you know ? Bluebird came a little unstuck in the middle - "we never know how that's going to go" Stills grunted. But "For what it's worth" - the perennial fits every occasion but slightly detached protest song - made up for any slight drop in the quality control.
Once again - and I really can't agree with the song's advice - "Love the one you're with" was a crowd pleasing encore. And Darkstar - with it's latin beat (did someone say disco ?) - on record not at all a favourite, but with the song ripped apart and a gutsy big guitar segment inserted it became something of majesty - albiet a fragile majesty that shouldn't be thought about too hard. But the edifice stays standing, and that's all that matters. Then it's bows from the band and a "I guess I'll be back .....sometime" from Stills, and the evening came to a close.
So, back out into the cold rain, buzzing with the joy of it all, oh, what a gig.
|Seasick Steve - Barrowland Glasgow - 21st October 2008|
Review by Mike Ritchie
There was a lot to enjoy in this Seasick Steve performance even though it had extra on-stage histrionics not evident on his first visit to the city a year ago. A drummer and washboard player were with him but I preferred the flying solo, stripped down, basic and bare-knuckled approach adopted last time round. That said, we still had a mighty fine time. His energy and heartfelt appreciation of his popularity in the UK remain admirable and infectious – you want to like him.
Looking as if he’s just arrived from a moonshiners’ convention in his dungarees and (new) green John Deere cap, he’s a mean, no slouch guitarist. He spits out ballsy riffs as readily as sleazy politicians suck up to sickeningly rich Russian oligarchs. Some of the sounds diving out over the crowd started in his boot soles and aimed directly for the solar plexus, deep and driven. Buoyed by regular slugs of Jack Daniels - no sign of a bottle of Rioja tonight -Steve rolled through his familiar, paydirt repertoire of dust and death, rail tracks and robbers, women and wastrels with assured, genuine passion. All the way through, he has a glint in his eye that is mischievous (for the ladieeeeeeees) but it also hints at a gentle threat - with a small ‘t’ - that you’d better like what he’s playing, or else you could be on the receiving end of a bear hug. High note grimaces and big smiles regularly played across his bearded face so it was real hard not to be totally captivated.
This show’s highlights included a roaring Started Out With Nothing from his latest CD release of the same name, Chiggers, Things Go Up, Last Po’ Man and a, woo-hoo laden encore of Dog House Blues, great fun. The Box Tops cover of The Letter was a sensation, turning a soulful, west coast sound of 1967 into a fiery cut and thrust bombardment with Steve clearly enjoying every note and stomp. It was a crowd-pleasing show overall, probably even for those who seemed intent on yapping inanely throughout the 90 minutes. No-one seeing Steve Wold live cannot be affected by his warmth and humility, which is really touching in this day and age of surly stars with the personality of a mic stand. Woo-hoo, indeed for Steve.
|Richie Havens -The Forum, London - 23rd October 2008|
Review by Jonathan Aird
Another wet and windy London evening sees me heading for the newly refurbished Forum for an all seated Richie Havens gig. Having only previously seen him at the Jazz Cafe I was a bit surprised by The Forum - it's a converted cinema, capacity about 2,000. And it's very cold. Having had a number of contradictory messages about stage times and whether or not there was a support I'd plumped for getting there by 7:30, just in case those who had said there was a support were right. They weren't - but I did manage to get a prime middle of front row seat.
The venue was hardly busy, but over the next hour or so it did slowly fill up until the central stalls was pretty much full - maybe 300 or so people. A steward I chatted with thought the advertising hadn't been very good, and I'd noticed myself that Time Out hadn't had an ad' in recent weeks - or a mention in their coming up listings. For such a large venue this seems a bit short sighted.
Around 8:30 Richie and his band came on stage to a warm welcome from a cold crowd. After a welcoming rap with the audience Richie launched into a song he'd learnt from a friend - All along the watchtower - his is a fine version, boldly differing from both Dylan's and Hendrix's by having a driving rhythm from Richie, with sensitive accompaniment from Walter Parks on acoustic guitar. As the evening went on Richie played a number of songs including If I, and Say It Isn't So from his new album (which unfortunately I wasn't familiar with at the time, and it turned out afterwards they'd already sold out of on this tour) - many were on familiar Richie Havens themes of working together for positive outcomes for mankind. And I don't see anything wrong with that.
The songs I did recognise straight off were - Love is Alive, with great Cello playing from Stephanie Winters; the sadly always appropriate Lives In The Balance - introduced with Richie's longest chat about the meaning of words and the power of advertising: we can all remember that Superman is faster than a speeding bullet, but there's also the final tag line about defending Truth, Justice & the American way of life. Hmm, as Richie ponders on this it's clear his message is: defending Truth and Justice - isn't that enough?
During Joni Mitchell's Woodstock Richie only half delivered the last verse, so he went around again and improvised some words and turned a mistake into a really special version. That's what a musician can do. Freedom was, as ever, a joy, and the cry to "clap your hands" at least got the circulation going again - they really should have turned the heating on!
Two encores - the first a real surprise - Maggie's Farm, with a bit of Won't Get Fooled Again mixed in - really worked well, and the final closer of You Are So Beautiful.
Had a chance to chat with Walter Parks whilst he was packing up, the band were travelling light on this tour - they'd just brought acoustic instruments, and not even their own amps, and it seemed to be working well - I'd agree, they had a great sound. He also mentioned that he'd like to bring his other band - Swamp Cabbage - to the UK sometime if it were possible to find a gap in Richie's busy schedule, which would be fabulous. And Richie came out to meet and greet too, happy to sign, happy to share a word or a hug. And he also explained why he doesn't play Handsome Johnny anymore - the veterans asked him to stop because it needs another 10 verses to cover the post-Vietnam wars. It figures.
A great night in the company of great musicians. Great to hear some news songs as well as old friends, and to have new arrangements of old friends. Richie always delivers! Did I mention it was a bit cold though?
Guitar : Richie Havens
Guitar : Walter Parks
Cello : Stephanie Winters