Sunday, December 30, 2007

Concert Hits and Misses of 2007

Everyone busts out their best-of lists this time of year, so why not me? I realized I actually saw enough concerts in 2007 to warrant one. So, enjoy:

Best Concert – Heaven and Hell
This one could have been pretty lame, a la Spinal Tap. However, it was pummeling. With all of the Zeppelin hype right now, I am reminded that people say Sabbath and Zeppelin ‘co-created’ heavy metal. Well, the difference is, if you go through all of Zeppelin’s albums, there is not ONE bad song in the lot. Ozzy era Sabbath? Tons of crap songs, especially in the late 70s. The Dio era was when Sabbath hit homer after homer. This show basically melted my face and was so good it was ridiculous.

Most Overrated – The Police
OK, so I gave this one a multi-star rating the day after the show. Looking back, it was mostly due to the excitement of this reunion even happening at all. The show was great, mind you, but they were awfully loose and the changes to the song arrangements were not always the best. Our show was the third or fourth of the tour, so I am still inclined to cut a load of slack. They are still on the road and I bet they are pretty tight by this point.

Biggest Surprise – Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
Loved the movie “Once,” bought tickets to the live show of the main characters playing the music. Thought it might be too mellow/boring. Was surprised at how funny Hansard was and how he kept 1,200 people at the Crystal Ballroom quiet so he could do the first song without any P.A. and hold everyone’s attention regardless. John Mayer at the New Orleans Jazz Fest was a close second here. His blistering guitaring and great attitude onstage ensures that I see him next time he’s in town.

Biggest Bummer Cancellation – Asia
Had tickets to see the original Asia at the Aladdin Theater, which hold less than 700 people. Just to get that close to Steve Howe and Carl Palmer was enticing, much less hearing all of those classic tunes live. But singer John Wetton had to go and have open heart surgery. Damn him. 2008 dates are scheduled worldwide but alas no Portland yet.

The One That Got Away – Van Halen
The reviews of this tour have been stellar. Roth is especially shining – in fine voice and just the right amount of “Diamond Dave” and Eddie is focused again. I had an available ticket and decided not to go. They may be back next year and if so, I’ll be there, just to say that I saw this one. Honorable mentions to ones I could have seen but missed – Genesis (really good prog-focused set list was surprising) and Tool (just could not make this one but really should have).

Honorable Mentions – Rush (set list included seven new songs, loads of unearthed classics. You can never go wrong with live Rush). Roger Waters (show vacillated between brilliance and boredom. Not impressed with guitarist). Jesus Christ Superstar (Incredible. I just wish the drummer in the pit had a real drum set, not an electric kit).

Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Shameless Self Promotion Part Three

A couple of personal vids to post. One is from a loose, acoustic appearance at Macadam's in Portland with my pal Bruce Kracke. I met Bruce this year at a Matt Vrba show and we found a mutual appreciation for all things Neil Young. Our first one of these Macadam's Thursday gigs was to do 30 minutes of Neil tunes. Great if you like Neil. Not so great if not. We had a blast!

Anyway, we've played a few times since then, usually trading off taking the lead vocal on a song we both know. For this one, our bass buddy Chris Chard joined for his first ever run through of Won't Get Fooled Again. It's loose but fun, and I commend Bruce's playful pseudo-windmills at the start of the song!

The other video is from one of last years' Floydian Slips shows. Once you get past the first minute or so of the Blair Witch shaky camera, you get a sense for how our show rolls out.

We have four Slips appearances coming up in the next two weeks. New Years Eve at the McDonald Theater in Eugene, two shows (same night) at the Triple Door in Seattle and one performance at the Aladdin Theater in Portland. We've never done a string like this, so I am looking forward to eating, sleeping and breathing Floyd for the next two weeks. Enjoy!

Won't Get Fooled Again

Run Like Hell

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Chris Squire's Swiss Choir

Yes’ Chris Squire has issued a Christmas CD called “Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir.” Say that ten times fast!

You can get it from Squire’s Web site, and Amazon and probably iTunes. It’s basically a modern take on some old English classic holiday songs (no Jingle Bells thank God) and from the couple of very quick audio previews, it does not sound half bad (or all bad)! Very nice choir, fairly rocking. I would have been more interested in this just before Christmas, however.

In an interview with Notes From The Edge, Squire talks about how he lined up Steve Hackett to play guitar on the project. Seems that before Hackett, he hoped to line up Jeff Beck or Brian May for the project because he “keeps running into them at awards shows.”

It reminded me of a recent post by Ross Halfin where Ross says that at a recent awards event, a very drunk Squire kept trying to corner Jimmy Page into working on some project with him and kept trying to stick his business card into Page’s front short pocket. Except that Page didn’t have a pocket on his shirt…

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Musical Review - Jesus Christ Superstar

Saw Jesus Christ Superstar last night – with Ted Neeley, the Jesus from the 1974 film in the lead role. I had seen this show about 15 years ago in Cupertino (the Flint Center) with him and Carl Anderson (also from the film) as Judas, and that performance was incredible.

Last night was pretty stellar as well.

Ted’s voice was raggy in general, and it was honestly a bit tough to stomach a 64-year-old Jesus who looked more like Willie Nelson, but it didn’t really matter. For a lot of people, Neeley is so good at this role that he IS Jesus.

You have to give the guy props for playing this role for the last 35 years. (When he sings the line “after all, I’ve tried for 3 years – seems like 30,” I wanted to say, “dude it HAS been 30).

I was wondering if he’d be able to hit those screaming highs and indeed had some trouble here and there. But in general he can still hit ‘em and I had hair standing up on my arms in a number of spots.

Of course, it didn’t help that my wife wrecked the moment for me in Neeley’s big song Gethsemane by leaning over to say that it looked like Jesus had ‘party tits.’ But actually, with his shirt off in the crucifixion scene, he looks great for his age. If I look half that good at 64, I will be a very happy older guy. This dude is very fit.

The guy who really stood out was Cory Glover of Living Color fame (Cult of Personality) who absolutely KILLED in the Judas role (no pun intended). He sang his ass off and his acting was great too. In the scene where he is remorseful about the betrayal and then hangs himself, the dude really ACTED. It was captivating.

The guys who played Pilate (Craig Sculli), Herod (Aaron Fuksa) and Simon (Matthew G. Myers) were also fantastic. The Herod scene, which is really campy in the movie, was played up in a big way and got the night’s only laughs. Craig Sculli as Pilate showed more compassion than any Pilate I have ever seen in JCS. That role for me is the most powerful, and they cast it really well.

Overall, every time I see the show, watch the movie or crank the soundtrack, I am reminded of how good a job Lloyd-Webber and Rice did on this. There is so much character development in this play. With just a very well-written line or two, you get deep insight into how a character is feeling or what kind of context the scene is running in.

I generally hate musicals, by the way, and I have checked out many other Lloyd-Webber/Rice soundtracks (Cats, Evita, Phantom of the Opera) and I am not a big fan. It’s just all too campy and Broadway for me. I guess I like JCS because it’s so rock and roll, and the music alone is worth a listen. I actually know every word to this thing, after listening to it non stop in high school and watching the film countless times.

(A buddy and I actually re-wrote the whole script in high school to apply to some a-hole administrators. I still have the typed draft – called “Mike Speckman Superstar.”)

By the way, count all the different time signatures in the music. You get 4/4, 3/4, 5/4, 7/8 etc. It’s all over the map and it’s really interesting.

Anyway, it was good seeing Neeley again in this role, but next time I might actually seek out an all-new cast to see what kind of twist they can put into it. Long live Ted Neeley!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Rush Returns in 2008

From today:

After a hugely successful 2007 run, Rush are pleased to announce they will extend their Snakes & Arrows World Tour into 2008. The band will begin rehearsals in March to revamp the set list before kicking off the tour with their first ever appearance in San Juan, Puerto Rico in April.

2008 will see Rush tour in over 40 cities throughout the United States and Canada making stops in many where they haven’t performed in well over a decade including: Orlando, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Austin, Jacksonville and Winnipeg to name a few. Along the way, Rush will play new venues in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Seattle and will revisit some familiar ones in Boston, Washington and Charlotte amongst others. Rush fans can look forward to a complete tour announcement in mid January.

Very cool. I may be on my way up to Seattle for this one, especially if they add some new gems to the set list (Camera Eye? Please oh please!)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Zep Rumor Mill & Videos

Looks like YouTube is starting to pull the reunion videos so watch that Kashmir one while you still can - it's the best one I have see so far, by far.

A couple of rumors buzzing around today:

1) The O2 show will be released on DVD
2) The band was talking backstage after the gig about doing some nights at Madison Square Garden

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

More Zep Vids - Holy Crap

OK, Plant didn't sound this good in 1978. What the hell? WOW

Kashmir (in its original key mind you)

And this short low quality treat (also in the original key):

Since I’ve Been loving You

More Zep Vids

There are lots of videos of the Zeppelin reunion on YouTube (just Google "Zeppelin O2"), so I won't go posting them all week. However, here are two good ones I found last night. Note they played Good Times Bad Times in D instead of E - an easier key for Plant to sing in. Stairway is tuned down a whole step as well. Page's solo is appropriately sloppy but nowhere near the train wreck of LiveAid.

As he showed us on the stellar Black Crowes tour, Page can get his chops up when he plays these songs night after night. I have no doubt he'd be blazing on an actual Zep tour as opposed to a one off gig.

Pretty glowing review here by Rolling Stone. There is mention that members of Yes and ELP also performed. Weird. I thought Pete Townshend was involved but have not seen anything about him...

Good Times Bad Times


Monday, December 10, 2007

Zeppelin Reunion - First Video

Thanks to Voxmoose for this clip. They sound flipping awesome. Wow.

Led Zeppelin Reunion Song by Song

So, we are hours away from the Zep reunion and the folks at NME are going to blog song-by-song postings right from the show floor. God bless hi tech!

When my buddy Al gets back from the show next week I will try and get a review from him.

12:48 update: NME just posted rehearsal photos here.
1:35 update - the whole world is trying to access the flipping NME blog.
1:40 update - first song - Good Times Bad Times - great choice IMO.
3:40 - final set list:

--Good Times, Bad Times
--Ramble On
--Black Dog
--In My Time Of Dying
--For Your Life
--Trampled Under Foot
--Nobody’s Fault But Mine
--No Quarter
--Since I’ve Been Loving You
--Dazed and Confused
--Stairway To Heaven
--The Song Remains the Same
--Misty Mountain Hop

--Whole Lotta Love
--Rock n’ Roll

One of the first reviews is here and it's pretty glowing. I want to hunt out some skepticism or at least objectivity. Was it really this killer? Maybe there will be some YouTube stuff up. If I see any, I will post it.

Disclaimer - the photo is from Getty Images and if they get pissed at me, I will take it down.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Planets Must Be Aligned

So, why does one strive to be a professional musician? Fame? Money? Recognition of talent? Easy access to women and drugs? Immortality?

Well, sure - all of the above.

But now we can add one more great reason to be a famous musician - to have a planet named after you.

How does this happen? The helpful guidelines on this Harvard site include:

The discoverer of a particular object [planet] has the privilege of suggesting a name to a committee that judges its suitability. Contrary to some recent media reports it is not possible to buy a minor planet [damn it]. If you have a name you would like to apply, the best advice is "Go out and discover one!".

So who has had the honor? As you'd expect, PROG ROCKERS. Pink Floyd, Yes, all three members of Rush, Vangelis (great planet name, no?), Enya and Frank Zappa have 'em.

But so do Jimmy Page, Springsteen, Phil Spector (must be a killer planet - ha ha), all of the Beatles (welcome to Planet Ringo), Brian Wilson and the weirdest one, the Bee Gees. Huh?

OK, I know what I am gonna do this weekend. Find a planet and name it "Porcupine Tree."

Monday, December 03, 2007

These Guys SHRED

OmiGod. Thanks to my buddy Brendan for turning me onto these gut-busting videos. It took me a long time to figure out what was going on but these are truly hilarious. Enjoy.

Clapton Shreds!

Eddie Shreds!

Carlos Shreds!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Van Halen Near Miss

Van Halen play in Portland tonight but I decided I don't care enough to be bothered, as much as I'd like to be able to write something up.

In fact, I was in the Bay Area for work this week and noticed they were playing in Sacramento Tuesday night - a mere two hour drive. I even had someone holding a ticket for me from Craig's List but I bagged driving up to SF to get it. That is when I realized I just don't care enough about Diamond Dave and the guys to make the effort.

I will instead have a little vigil at home tonight for Kevin DuBrow and Evel Knievel.