Monday, July 30, 2007

Michael Schenker Asses Out

Fresh off the 'Ass Out in Public with Lindsay and Britney Express,' here is an obviously wasted Michael Schenker "performing" last weekend at the Rock & Blues Custom Show in England.

Unlike the drunk James Brown post from a couple of days ago, this is just sad. At least Brown could still belt it out even while conducting a sloshed TV interview. Schenker shouldn't even have been carrying a guitar, much less playing it, as one show attendee reported.

I guess the appearance ended with Michael and his brother Rudolf coming to blows, needing to be separated by security. Nice - video to follow I'm sure.

Schenker was a guitar prodigy, co-founding The Scorpions at the ripe young age of 16 and joining UFO for their glory years before re-joining the Scorps for their best albums and starting his own band the Michael Schenker Group in the 80s.

However, his career is laden with stories of alcohol abuse, tantrums and walking offstage in mid song. Notice how the older one gets, the less forgivable this crap gets? Come on, dude, get it together.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Paul Stanley Suffers Heart Ailment

As much sniping as I do about KISS, they were the first band after The Beatles that I really loved as a kid, and they had a tremendous impact on me and my musical future.

Imagine my shock this morning to read that Paul Stanley had to pull out of a KISS show last night because his heart started beating irregularly. On his site he (or someone) posted: "My heart spontaneously jumped to 190 plus beats per minute, where it stayed for over an hour necessitating paramedics to start an IV and give me a shot to momentarily stop my heart and get it into a normal pattern. Not knowing if this episode was life threatening made it even more exhausting. After consulting with both the paramedics and a cardiologist at Cedar Sinai, they confirmed my worst fear. They said that I would put myself at risk if I tried to do the show."

This is some scary shit. Apparently the show went on without Paul, with KISS playing as a trio, which is almost but not quite as scary. Needless to say, it was a "Gene heavy" set - show details are posted at KISS Online.

I never got around to posting a concert review of Paul Stanley after I saw him on his solo tour at the 650 seat Aladdin Theater in Portland last year. He was astounding, whipping out KISS and solo classics backed by the very young and rocking House Band from Rock Star: Supernova. Unladen by all the of KISS makeup, effects and associated trappings, it was an intimate night of solid rock and roll by one of rock's most prominent and talented statesmen.

Here's hoping for a full and speedy recovery, Paul.

Friday, July 27, 2007

James Brown Drunk

...Or is this Paula Abdul? Regardless, this is pretty flipping classic. Easy Allen of Five Easy Pieces, thanks for sending!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Page and Beck to Reunite?

In another tidbit from the rumor department, Rolling Stone online is reporting that Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck may reunite this Fall in a reformed version of The Yardbirds. While I don't really give a crap about The Yardbirds, I would probably pay to see Beck and Page play together.

That could be highly cool.

It will probably be de-bunked like that Zeppelin reunion rumor I posted on a while ago, but such is life!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Concert Review - RUSH

Riddle me this, Batman? What do you get when Rush decides to shelve some of their more tired workhorses from the last three or four tours, like 2112, Working Man, Roll the Bones and damn near all of their recorded output from 1987 through 2004?

You get one of the freshest Rush set lists in years. You get Digital Man, Entre Nous, Circumstances, Passage to Bangkok, Witch Hunt, Natural Science, Freewill and – not kidding – nine new songs from the latest album Snakes and Arrows (good thing the album kicks ass). And not one medley!

I just returned from seeing the band at the Clark County Amphitheater and they did not disappoint. But I didn’t really expect them to. No, you can pretty much rely on Rush to perform really really well no matter what. That is not even a question.

The question becomes, what are they going to play? Who are they catering to on the tour? I have to say, the band on this tour is catering to the die hard Rush fan, finally. Long gone are the ‘crowd pleasers’ like Closer to the Heart and New World Man. Now we get four of the seven songs from Permanent Waves, half of Moving Pictures, and two from Signals. Very heavy on the 1978-1982 period. We also get 80s gems like Between the Wheels and Mission. But no Big Money or Force Ten. Can I say it any louder – THANK YOU! Killer, killer set list.

And this time around, not only did they dig deep into the catalog, they featured their newest release more prominently than I remember them doing since they did seven out of the eight songs on Power Windows on that tour in 1985. This is epic and shows that Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart are not going to wrap it up any time soon.

I mean, they could easily rest on their laurels and play the same rotation of songs over and over again but they clearly believe in the new album so much that they want to feature it heavily. And the new songs went over really well, even when they opened set two with five of them in a row.

Granted, three of those nine new songs were instrumentals, and one of those is an Alex Lifeson acoustic solo piece called “Hope.” (Rush instrumentals always work and get a big response). So that meant that with the encore closer YYZ, they did four instrumentals plus the drum solo.

And yeah, I had read this elsewhere but Neil’s drum solo was totally different. He didn’t repeat anything from previous tours and it was far less flashy and more jazzy. He even wrapped up the solo by playing along to a pre-recorded jazz track. It was more like a Buddy Rich solo, minus the swearing. And of course it was jaw dropping, but that is a given.

Again, you expect a certain level of excellence from Rush and you always get it. I’ll tell you though, the one stand out for me was Geddy’s voice. Even as far back as the 80s I sensed he could not hit the high notes anymore, but tonight it was insane. He hit them all, with the exception of the verses to Passage to Bangkok, which he sang a bit differently from the album version. But that was the last song he sang all night and his voice must be tired. Also – YOU try and sing it. It’s supersonic screech for the whole song.

But the high verse in Freewill and the chorus of Circumstances in particular gave me chills he hit those notes so well. Not sure how you are making that happen Ged, but keep it up.

I also sensed fewer pre-recorded backing tracks this time around. Every tour over the last decade they seem to use less, and I say good. On the Presto tour in 1989, I remember being as disillusioned as I ever was with Rush because I felt like they were just playing along to backing tracks and there was more pre-recorded stuff than live stuff.

The pendulum has swung the other way and there were only a couple of songs where I heard instruments that no one was playing. I am not including the keyboard patches and such that they trigger on Taurus pedals with their feet – I am talking about backing tracks that seem to add complete instrumental parts throughout the whole song, as if there were a fourth and fifth member of Rush playing from under the stage.

I am also not talking about backing vocals, because there were numerous pre-recorded Geddy Lee vocal parts and harmonies layered on all of the new songs. They have been doing this for years and I got used to it, even though I think it’s ‘cheating.’ My remaining gripe in this department is that they need to get rid of Alex’s mic, which is clearly not even on. And when he sings into it and you hear seven Geddys, you know it’s a ruse. But whatever. He’s been doing that for years, so I guess I should just deal with it.

Alex had some very nice acoustic guitars mounted on stands so he could switch back and forth from acoustic to electric in the same song, a la Steve Howe from Yes. His 12 string work in Entre Nous was gorgeous.

I love the fact that Geddy played a Fender Jazz bass all night (except in Bangkok, when the Rickenbacker came back out – wow!), and Alex is mostly on Les Pauls.

Funny note – Geddy’s backline was thee large Rotisserie chicken roasters (since he plugs his bass into the PA direct, he does not need amplifiers and he started putting random stuff behind him instead a few years ago – like clothes washers and candy machines).

This brings up another point, which is that these guys have a great collective sense of humor and there were a lot of funny video clips of the band doing all sorts of things as intros to some songs. Two that stand out are Geddy dressed up like a Scottish dude called “Harry Satchel” trying to get the band onstage (think Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons), and a video of the South Park kids as a garage band trying to play Tom Sawyer, where Cartman has a wig on, screws up the words and says to the other guys, “I’m Geddy Lee dammit and I can sing whatever I want!”

It’s so great to see these same three guys after more than 30 years and 19 studio albums still playing with passion, integrity, precision and yes damn it FUN. They clearly love what they do and are very concerned with delivering their best, always. Name another band around even half this long that has toured behind every single one of their studio albums and has done so much for their loyal legion of fans. I for one will go see these guys every time they come through town. They have my word.

But next time they can skip Subdivisions and Limelight and add Jacob's Ladder, M'kay?

Set one:
--Digital Man
--Entre Nous
--The Main Monkey Business (instrumental)
--The Larger Bowl
--Secret Touch
--Between The Wheels

set two:
--Far Cry
--Workin' Them Angels
--Armor And Sword
--The Way The Wind Blows
--Natural Science
--Witch Hunt
–-Malignant Narcissism (instrumental)
--Drum Solo
--Hope (instrumental)
--Summertime Blues
--The Spirit Of Radio
--Tom Sawyer

--One Little Victory
--A Passage to Bangkok
–-YYZ (instrumental)

Oh and P.S. – A big thanks for playing BOTH Seattle and Portland. Normally bands these days choose one over the other and I have to drive three hours each way to see ‘em because they choose Seattle.

Yeah and P.S.S. – So psyched the Clark County Amphitheater provides free parking instead of the $20 I had to pay in Oakland for Roger Waters. Even thought it took and hour to get out of the parking lot last night. Ce la vie.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

One More KISS Post

I know we've been a little "KISS Heavy" what with Ace's very exciting Dunkin' Donuts campaign and all, but I wanted to share this photo from Kissonline. I always thought it was funny that when KISS rehearse, they wear the boots.

I know why - it's so they can rehearse their moves and whatnot b/c walking around in those things is way different than normal shoes. They weigh something like 40 or 50 pounds each, and you have to re-create the actual show conditions to be fully prepared to rock only as KISS can rock.

But I still think they look funny! Click on the photo to the right and you'll be able to see it better.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ace on Donuts - Here it is

God bless YouTube. Here is the Ace commercial. You be the judge if this is lame or not. I have my own opinion...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ace Frehley - Coffee and Donuts

On the heels of Ace Frehley's appearance at the one year anniversary of the opening of the first KISS Coffeehouse (he played 'Shock Me' with the tribute band Mr. Speed), Ace has now apparently signed up to appear - in full makeup - in new Dunkin’ Donuts commercials.

What in the HELL?

From Kissonline: The America Runs on Dunkin’ campaign features advertisements directed by screenwriter, director, producer and actor Zach Braff. Two spots within the campaign debuted today, featuring Frehley and supermodel Naomi Campbell in support of Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Tea and Iced Latte summer beverages, respectively.

Come on, Paul and Gene - can you cut Ace a bigger check so he does not have to do this crap? This is my childhood hero we are talking about, for God's sake...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Red Barchetta - Authors Meet

So in perusing the Rush Is A Band blog this morning, I found a link to a lengthy posting by Richard S. Foster, the author of the short story "A Nice Morning Drive."

Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart based the classic Rush song Red Barchetta (one of my top five favorite Rush songs), on this story, written for Road & Track in 1973. The song is found on 1980's Rush masterpiece, Moving Pictures.

It seems that Neil and Foster had never met - until recently on the current Rush tour, which winds its way to Portland this Saturday.

The story of how the two hooked up, the passion they share for motorcycles, and the long road trip they took last week on the East Coast is fascinating. Not only is it cool to get a perspective on Peart and Rush from someone who is just discovering the band, it's also an enviable first hand look at a day spent on the road one on one with the reclusive Peart.

This is the stuff dreams are made of. What Rush fan would not want to spend an extended stretch with any one of them, pretty much with totally exclusive access?!

Foster posted his entry here, with a number of photos (one of which I stole for this posting), and Neil also wrote about it on his Web site - here until he updates the news page. Rush fans, enjoy.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Death of the Album - or, Dancing on the Grave of the Music Industry

Over vacation, VoxMoose sent me a Slashdot posting on “the death of the album.” Nedmusic posted something similar recently as well, on the sorry state of the music industry. My take on it is this:

In terms of the ‘death of the album,’ the single was king in the 50s and early 60s and it was really bands like The Beatles who made albums important. Their attitude was, let's make EVERY song as good as a hit single so when you put your album out, it was strong – a collection of killer singles. And if you go back and listen to Rubber Soul or Revolver, that is exactly what those albums are.

Then of course with stuff like Sgt Pepper and Abbey Road, the linear nature of the album and how the songs were laid out were paramount. That paved the way for stuff like The Who’s Tommy and bands like Floyd, Yes, etc, who used the whole album to tell a story.

To me, bands like Van Halen (post VH II) who put three good songs on an album and a bunch of crap filler are the ones who started to bring it down as an art form.

There has been discussion about how we live among a generation with a very short attention span. We prefer to randomly hit our iPod shuffle and don’t sit and listen to full 45 minute pieces of music anymore.

That may be true, but to put it in a positive light, at least today you have a choice. You can get the one or two songs that are good and skip the crap, or if it's a band like Tool who still respects the long format of a CD, you can get the whole thing and trip out on the whole album.

If the record industry encouraged artists to actually develop, you'd see more album sales and less the buying of one-off singles. I am not a big fan of them, but Portland's The Decemberists seem to be a band that is doing this, and people are really responding. And there are others.

In terms of the sorry state of the music industry, I’d say it’s about time the big labels start to suffer after totally commoditizing music with commercialism and the ‘let’s make as much money as we can’ attitude that started with the big stadium shows in the 70s and continue today with outrageous ticket prices and a plethora of one hit wonders churning out forgettable crap.

Note that to have a “number one” today, you have to sell a fraction of what the top ten moved just a few years ago. People are buying less music and it ain’t because they are stealing it off the Internet. It’s because what the big five (four?) are throwing at us via Best Buy and Wal Mart is total crap I wouldn’t listen to if it WAS free. So they can all eat it as far as I am concerned. So there.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Would You Trust This Piece of Gear?

I just got back from an extended vacation to Washington DC. The family and I were treated to numerous tours and outings thanks to my brother and his wife who are experts on the area. It was pretty fab, and we saw all the big monuments - Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Wall, Koren War Memorial (see the photo - creepy at night), World War II Memorial, Iwo Jima statue, etc etc etc.

We also hit a lot of the killer Museums like the Smithsonian, Museum of Natural History and of course the Air and Space Museum.

Which brings me to this long overdue posting. Dig the crazy sci-fi B movie prop in the photo. Oh no, wait - that was an actual console used by NASA to get Americans into outer space. Can you believe it? What a piece of crap! Those astronauts had major cohenes for more than one reason...