Thursday, June 28, 2007

Zeppelin Reunion Tour? You Heard it Here First...

...Or you read it where I did, from the Eddie Trunk Web site. I guess Page, Plant and Jones are lined up to reunite for an upcoming concert honoring the memory of Atlantic Records guru Ahmet Ertegun.

No hard details are available but the source still threw out this nugget: " one can quite believe it, but during discussions about the concert they all gave the green light to a tour if it all does well and they don't all fall out."

I'll put this one out there to the readers: Would you go to a Zeppelin reunion concert? Before you answer, remember LiveAid? The show was so bad Zep didn't allow its inclusion in the recently released DVD.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I Have Seen the Future and its Name is...Microsoft?

I flipping hate Microsoft. For a number of reasons, but when anything goes wrong I usually blame them. Even if I stub my foot on the carpet. It's their fault. Yeah. The War in Iraq? Microsoft.

However -- and I am sure this technology has been stolen from a number of other companies and innovators (Microsoft does not innovate, they appropriate) -- you can't deny the cool factor shown in this Popular Mechanics video of the company's new Microsoft Surface table computer.

Once the price comes down, they work out the bugs and the thing actually supports all of the peripheral gadgets shown in the vid (year 2016 or so, in version 11), these things will be everywhere. Mark my words.

It's like the iPhone on crack - no, wait, that's me...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Concert Review - Roger Waters

Flew down to California for work Monday morning and driving to the hotel, I was treated to some Pink Floyd on Bay Area radio. Imagine my utter SHOCK to find out Roger Waters was performing the very next night in Oakland at the Douche Bag Arena or whatever the Oakland Coliseum is called this month.

One Craig’s List posting and a few emails later and I found myself at the show for $80 with a decent seat.

In my mind, Rog would have to work pretty hard to top the last time I saw him, which was on the tour immortalized on the In The Flesh DVD. That DVD was filmed in Portland, by the way, the night after I saw him in the Bay Area. His band was stellar and the emotion packed into the set was palpable. My buddy Bill and I logged it as one of the best shows we had ever seen. He did Dogs, Set the Controls and all sorts of his best solo stuff. Go buy the DVD and you will get a good feel for that tour.

What I didn’t expect, or forgot, was that this time around he was doing the whole Dark Side and was whipping out some stuff I have never seen live before like Sheep, The Fletcher Memorial Home, Have A Cigar and even some new material. So I thought, what the hell? Let’s check it out with an open mind.

So how was it? Generally, the show was great but I vacillated between thinking I was connecting with a visionary artistic genius to thinking I was watching a fairly authentic Floyd cover band.

First off, his core band was pretty much the same as last time. Same drums (Graham Broad), guitar/vocals (Andy Fairweather Low and Snowy White), and same keyboard/guitar/vocals/Gilmour impersonator (Jon Carin). He had three backup singers like last time, and also added a Hammond player (his son, Harry Waters – no joke). They were fine, and in some spots exceptional.

The weak link was the primary lead guitarist, Dave Kilminster. Having seen Doyle Bramhall II rip the hell out of all the leads on last tour, I knew it would be hard to top him. Kilminster did a great job on Have A Cigar but I thought his tone and feel were weak in Shine On, Money and especially Time and Comfortably Numb. And for some reason he sang Money and it was like low grade Karaoke.

After tapping Clapton, Jeff Beck and Bramhall for the lead guitar spot over the years, the standards are incredibly high for the lead guitarist at a Waters show and this guy didn’t cut it. The few leads Snowy White got were also – while smoking – not even close to Gilmour’s tone and feel. So that was kind of a buzz kill for me. That and the songs he let other band members sing made me feel like I was watching a Floyd tribute band. And then I started making comparisons to MY Floyd tribute band The Floydian Slips and you don’t even want me to go there…

Anyway, the high points. There were lots. First off, Waters’ voice was great. I was very surprised that his croaking through songs like Wish You Were Here was the exception, not the norm. Go pull out The Final Cut and listen to Fletcher Memorial Home. He nailed all of the high parts live.

Also, he sang more of the songs and played way more bass this time than I remembered from last time, which was nice. Again, every time someone else sang, it felt like Karaoke at Chopsticks on Burnside.

He opened the show with In The Flesh and Mother, which were very solid. The third song was Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, which was a ballsy third song. Separated the boys from the men right there! But Snowy White’s short solo came nowhere NEAR Bramhill’s epic ripping jam from last tour. As Neil Young would say, “They weren’t even in the same BUILDING.” That was an opportunity lost, I tell ya.

Next was Shine On, which was OK, and Have A Cigar which Waters also sang really really well. That is a high vocal part and he nailed it!

Wish You Were Here followed, and this is the only song that was changed from the original, as Waters and the other guitarists all played acoustic and even the solos were acoustic. A nice, stripped down, different version. Very good because that song is so worn out from multiple plays on radio.

From there, Rog ditched the guitar to take a seat to sing Southampton Dock and Fletcher Memorial Home from The Final Cut. These were two of the strongest songs of the night. Poignant and well delivered by his band, probably because they didn’t need to try and sound like Floyd to pull them off.

Rog then got up to pace the stage, mic in hand, while delivering Perfect Sense from Amused to Death, which I thought was better last time. Some of those lyrics are embarrassing, too. He needed an editor on that album. Sadly, the next and newest song, Leaving Beruit, pretty much sucks. It was my pee break song.

But Waters redeemed himself immediately to close the first set with Sheep. The band pummeled this song, and Waters also unleashed a terror of confetti from the rafters, through which floated a VW Bug sized inflated pig zeppelin. The pig was spray painted with graffiti that said things like “Impeach Bush.” The crowd went nuts.

After a 15 minute set break, the band came back for the Dark Side of the Moon. The huge video screen that had been providing some of the BEST visuals I have ever seen at a concert (more on that in a second), changed to just show images via a circular shape, mimicking the classic Floyd circular screen for the whole of Dark Side.

The ‘big hits’ from Dark Side were sung by others (Karaoke). The high points were On The Run, which ping ponged in quadraphonic sound around the arena ceiling to some of the most mind bending visuals I have ever witnessed, and Great Gig, which was crushed by one of the backup singers. She oversang it, though, and I wanted her to hold it back a bit. Funny that no matter how kick ass a singer, no one can really top the original of that cut.

A piece of gear that looked like the tripod bottom of the lunar lander had been hanging from the ceiling all night above the front floor seats. For Brain Damage, it came to life as lasers shot out from four points, creating a 3-D laser prism that rotated slowly above and in front of the stage. While this sounds like a Friday night planetarium laser Floyd show effect, it was actually incredible. They also had a machine that emitted laser from within the shape on both sides, creating a 3D prism from the cover of Dark Side that rotated in midair. Highly cool.

The encore was all stuff from The Wall: Happiest Days, Brick 2, Vera, Bring the Boys Back Home and Comfortably Numb. Again, the big solos in Brick 2 and Numb left a lot to be desired. But Vera and Boys were incredibly and oddly moving. Weird songs to include but nice rarities. Waters sung Vera just like on The Wall and Bring the Boys Back Home was extended to include an additional chorus. Iraq war related visuals and explosions on the screen behind brought the point home that this song is as relevant today as ever.

I need to make special mention of the visuals. I remember thinking last tour that the visuals were a bit weak. The whole night was like a Power Point slide show. It felt low budget. This show, on the other hand, had some of the highest quality visuals I have ever seen. The screen felt like HD even from my 200 level seats, and the scenes seemed to be filmed in 3D. It was stunning.

To start the show, 15 minutes before the lights went out, an old time radio appeared on the screen. A bottle of whiskey and ash tray were in the foreground and a hand came up repeatedly to turn the radio dial, pour and drink glasses of whiskey and smoke cigarettes. It was a cool way to cue up the pre-show music. Chuck Berry and old 60s classics played. There was a laugh when Abba’s Dancing Queen came on and the hand came back quickly to switch the dial. You wondered who that hand and arm belonged to.

This “hand turning radio knob” video came back on screen to play the opening radio sound effects to Wish You Were Here, and it reappeared a couple of other times, providing kind of a visual theme throughout the night. In other songs, you got to see images of the room the radio is in. The scene would pan around slowly, and the radio would be there in the background. Well finally, in Comfortably Numb, we see this whacked out kid sitting in a chair eyes blazing like in the Wall movie but in 2007. As the camera pans back, there is the radio, booze and ash tray next to him. It was a subtle but effective way to tie the night together.

Overall, we got a lot of rarities, we got the hits, we got the whole Dark Side and we got Waters really connecting with the crowd even when he wasn’t singing. We got killer audio and visual. But we got weak solos and tepid vocals. Basically we AGAIN got reminded how awesome the original Floyd was and how the parts of Floyd can make great music and entertainment, but it ain’t Floyd unless it’s Waters, Gilmour, Wright and Mason. Amen.

Set List

set one:
--In The Flesh
--Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
--Shine On You Crazy Diamond
--Have A Cigar
--Wish You Were Here (acoustic)
--Southampton Dock
--The Fletcher Memorial Home
--Perfect Sense parts 1 and 2
--Leaving Beruit

set two:
--The Dark Side of the Moon

--Happiest Days of Our Lives
--Another Brick in the Wall part 2
--Bring the Boys Back Home
--Comfortably Numb

Friday, June 15, 2007

Blast From The Past - Sick Again

Back in the late 90s, in one of the weirdest but coolest pairings ever, Jimmy Page embarked on a world tour with The Black Crowes (or was it the other way around?). They did mostly Zeppelin tunes but also some blues standards and even some Black Crowes songs.

To my shattered memory, the tour was shelved after a month or so because Page had chronic back pain and couldn't carry on.

A an Internet only CD came from the tour - Live At The Greek (now available on CD). Back in the day, I stole the whole thing using Napster on dial up (sorry Jimmy) and it took about 13 hours to get it all. Holy crap they made it hard to steal music back then.

Today, when these songs come up randomly on my iPod, I am always blown away at how powerful and big the band sounds, how good Page is playing, and how much better Chris Robinson can sing Zeppelin than Robert Plant.

My only regret is that I never saw this show. But of course there are tons of clips on YouTube. Do your own searches but enjoy this one re-post to start your weekend right.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Geddy Lee Guitar World Interview

I promise I am not just going to rip off and re-post all the cool entries from but I've gotta do it with this one. It's an 18 minute Guitar World video interview with Geddy Lee where he talk bass, bass and more bass. The last minutes where he goes over his technique and his disdain for playing keyboards in Rush are only a few of the highlights. Enjoy it here.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Neil Peart Posts Drum Part

For those of you who want to play bass or guitar along with Neil Peart, unimpeded by the noodlings of those clowns Alex and Geddy, the wait is over.

Neil has posted the drum part to the Snakes and Arrows instrumental The Main Monkey Business at his Web site. You can now hear what Neil's drum part for that killer tune sounds like without any other instruments. It's highly cool. Enjoy...

Rush Set List Spoiler

SPOILER ALERT - CAUTION - Don't read this if you want to be surprised by Rush's set list this Summer.

This could be total crap and not at all accurate, but Rush fan site has revealed a partial setlist from a source who has heard the band rehearsing in Toronto. The following songs were heard in their entirety:

Entre Nous
Witch Hunt
A Passage To Bangkok
Natural Science
Digital Man
Between The Wheels
Tom Sawyer
Spirit Of Radio

They also played about 8 songs from Snakes & Arrows.

If this is true I will be one happy camper on July 21. If not, chalk it up as another one of these rumors that always happens before Rush tours - "They are going to do all of Hemsipheres! Geddy's son said so!" Yeah, right...

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Police - Part Two

So, to follow up my concert review from the last post below, check out these YouTube pirate videos from the Seattle Police show (I think these are the night after I saw them) and from the nights before in Vancouver.

The first clip of Dee Doo Doo Doo (lame song but a good example here) shows how they are farting around with the song in a lower key and right when this short clip ends, they bump up to the original key. Check it.

The second is a short clip of the jam in When the World is Running Down.

The third is the coolest I found so far. Dig it at about 2:40 on the clock when Stuart comes in with full kit and then they (again) bump the song up to the original key, add some new funky riffs and then add an Andy Summers solo. Check this version against the original and you will see what I am talking about regarding how they have changed the arrangements on all of the songs - in a great way in my opinion. The only thing I don't like about this clip is that Sting looks a bit like the 'pansy' Copeland called him after one of these shows, and Summers looks a bit hesitant, body language wise. At the show I saw, they seemed much more comfy onstage. Whatev!

Do a YouTube search for "Police Vancouver" if you want more. There are tons and tons of clips...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Concert Review - The Police

The Police reunion in Seattle ranks as one of the best shows I have seen in years. Right out of the gate there was mass excitement – just seeing these three back onstage again was a real kick. The opener, Message in a Bottle was loaded with energy and was played for the most part just like the recording – high energy and with abandon. But with the second and third songs (Synchronicity II and Spirits in the Material World), it became apparent that the band was not going to play it by the book.

Basically, Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers re-worked their whole catalog for this tour, with mostly excellent results. They changed keys and tempos. They added solos, cut verses, and repeated musical sections. On some songs, they changed the key for the first two verses and choruses, only to jump up to the original key at the last minute, bringing the intensity up for the conclusion.

Copeland changed the beat in a number of songs. For example he played the choruses of Synchronicity II half time for the first line and double time for the second. A number of songs had new intros. They spliced songs together, extended the ends of some, the beginning of others.

Sting looked and sang fantastic. It was unreal how good he sounded. Copeland was a machine. As busy, frenetic and pummeling as ever. Summers was solid – I was really impressed with him because I sort of expected the least from him. But unlike the lone guitarists in other power trios like Rush, Queen, The Who, Zeppelin or Cream, Summers does not rely on layered effects or huge banks of amps to fill up the sound. He goes in the other direction, playing sparsely with a sharp, clean tone. He almost approached some of these songs like a jazz player. Really, the whole band was very minimalistic.

They made quiet songs rocking and rocking songs quiet. For example, Walking In Your Footsteps is a pretty quiet, droning track off of Synchronicity. But last night Copeland started the song on a percussion set up but moved quickly to full drum kit and laid a BEAT behind it after the first verse – made it very funky. And to the converse, they took a song like Truth Hits Everybody, which is a proto punk burner from their first album, and played it slow and in a lower key.

All in all, this was three mature musicians daring to play their catalog with a fresh approach. And good for them.

When I saw U2, they struggled to achieve the big sound they have on record. Many of the big songs like Vertigo suffered for it. The Police didn’t even bother to try. If a song had too many parts to cover from the recorded version, they just changed the songs. For example, songs like Spirits in the Material World, Every Little Thing She Does is Magic and King of Pain rely on piano or keyboards on record. The Police either rearranged the parts or had Summers play them with a clean guitar tone. There were a number of songs where I had no clue what they were playing until Sting sang (these were hit songs, not obscure rarities!). And as he has always done, Sting changed up how he sang the songs so even in that department it was fresh.

The three were having a blast – lots of smiles and interplay, musically and with onstage banter. This was also a good time to see the band. Because it was one of the first shows on the tour, they were still rusty in spots and there were a couple of flubs here and there, but the trade off was that they are so clearly on the ‘beginning of the tour’ high. The energy was great and they were clearly having the time of their lives onstage.

I don’t know if I am getting this across, but this was not Clapton’s bossanova version of Layla. This was not “The Police unplugged” (which I hear they are going to do for MTV by the way). This was a mature re-working of a vital and important body of work by three passionate, seasoned musicians not content to roll out rote versions of their many hits for a sold out reunion tour.

Purists might be pissed at this approach, as this was not a note for note rehash down memory lane. But I say too bad. I wish more bands did this with their songs. The Police are comfortable enough with their musicianship, repertoire and audience to totally re-work their entire catalog and bust it out in front of 20,000 people live.

Set List:
--Message in a Bottle
--Synchronicity II
--Spirits In The Material World
--Voices Inside My Head/When the World is Running Down
--Don't Stand So Close to Me
--Driven to Tears
--Walking on the Moon
--Truth Hits Everybody
--Every Little Thing She Does is Magic
--Wrapped Around Your Finger
--The Bed's Too Big Without You
--Murder By Numbers
--Dee Doo Doo Doo Dee Da Da Da
--Invisible Sun
--Walking In Your Footsteps
--Can't Stand Losing You/Regatta De Blanc

encore one:
--King of Pain
--So Lonely

encore two:
--Every Breath You Take
--Next To You

Photo credit: Digg Doug

Sunday, June 03, 2007

An Illustrated History of the Web

I know this is a music related Blog but many of my readers are geeks too (like me) and will appreciate this brief and slightly scary history of the Web. Will we teach it become so smart that it will take over?

And I quote "Those who know what's best for us must rise and save us from ourselves."

Friday, June 01, 2007

Stewart Copeland Disses Police Show

I was pretty geeked up to see this concert next Wednesday in Seattle. After the below post from Stewart Copeland on his Web site Forum, I am even MORE geeked up. I love it when bands take chances in front of 20,000 people. I saw Deep Purple do it in the 80s and it looks like I'll see it again next week. Happy reading:

“Whenever you’re ready Mr. Copeland” says Charlie, the production manager, as two crew members hold aside the giant gong, creating just enough space for me to slither onto my percussion stage, which is still down in its pit. I leap on board but my foot catches something and I sprawl into the arena in a jumble as the little stage starts to rise into view. Never mind. The audience is screaming with anticipation as I collect myself in the dark and start to warm, up the gong with a few gentle taps. But I’m overdoing it. It’s resonating and reaching it’s crescendo before the stage has fully reached its position. Sort of like a premature ejaculation. There’s nothing for it so I take a big swing for the big hit. Problem is, I’m just fractionally too far away and the beater misses the sweet spot and the big pompous opening to the show is a damp squib.

Never mind. I stride manfully to my drums. Andy has started the opening guitar riff to MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE and the crowd is going nuts. Problem is, I missed hearing him start. Is he on the first time around or the second? I look over at Sting and he’s not much help, his cue is me – and I’m lost. Never mind. “Crack!” on the snare and I’m in, so Sting starts singing. Problem is, he heard my crack as two in the bar, but it was actually four – so we are half a bar out of sync with each other. Andy is in Idaho.

Well we are professionals so we soon get sorted, but the groove is eluding us. We crash through MESSAGE and then go strait into SYNCHRONICITY. But there is just something wrong. We just can’t get on the good foot. We shamble through the song and hit the big ending. Last night Sting did a big leap for the cut-off hit, and he makes the same move tonight, but he gets the footwork just a little bit wrong and doesn’t quite achieve lift-off. The mighty Sting momentarily looks like a petulant pansy instead of the god of rock. Never Mind. Next song is going to be great…

But it isn’t. We get to the end of the first verse and I snap into the chorus groove – and Sting doesn’t. He’s still in the verse. We’ll have to listen to the tapes tomorrow to see who screwed up, but we are so off kilter that Sting counts us in to begin the song again. This is ubeLIEVably lame. We are the mighty Police and we are totally at sea.

And so it goes, for song after song. All I can think about is how Dietmar is going to string us up. In rehearsal this afternoon we changed the keys of EVERY LITTLE THING and DON’T STAND SO CLOSE so needless to say Andy and Sting are now on-stage in front of twenty thousand fans playing avant-garde twelve-tone hodgepodges of both tunes. Lost, lost, lost. I also changed my part for DON’T STAND and it’s actually working quite well but there is a dissonant noise coming from my two colleagues. In WALKING/FOOTSTEPS, I worked out a cool rhythm change for the rock-a-billy guitar solo, but now I make a complete hash of it – by playing it in the wrong part of the song. It’s not sounding so cool.

It usually takes about four or five shows in a tour before you get to the disaster gig. But we’re The Police so we are a little ahead of schedule. It’s only the second show (not counting the fan gig – 4,000 people doesn’t count as a gig in the Police scale of things). When we meet up back-stage for the first time after the set and before the encores, we fall into each other’s arms laughing hysterically. Above our heads, the crowd is making so much noise that we can’t talk. We just shake our heads ruefully and head back up the stairs to the stage. Funny thing is, we are enjoying ourselves anyway. Screw it, it’s only music. What are you gonna do? But maybe it’s time to get out of Vancouver…