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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 12

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 12

3/1/04 Bob Dylan, The Pageant. This was the first of three nights at The Pageant, the first stop on a rare tour of smaller theatres for this legendary rock icon, blah, blah, blahÖ

No opening act- Bob and band took the stage right at eight and played for almost two hours. Wearing all black clothes and a big white cowboy hat, Bob stood stage left at a set of keyboards (didnít play guitar all night) with his right side to the audience- so we all got an interesting side view of Bob as he put his whole body into his playing, arching his back and stretching his legs. His microphone was positioned in a way that required him to bend down to sing into it.

So about the music- Bob, never being one to settle for just re-enacting his greatest hits from long ago, continues to write new songs, try new stuff and present new arrangements. He can always get any number of talented musicians to back him up- in this case, the prevailing sound was bluesy rock, not unlike what Lucinda Williamsí more recent tours have featured. Tonightís band featured two guitar players (Freddy Koella & Larry Campbell; the latter played steel guitar at times) who traded leads, each with his own style. Tony Garnier on bass and two drummers (playing more synchronized than complimentary) filled in the bottom.

But, admiring the manís refusal to rest on his laurels doesnít necessarily guarantee that youíll like what heís up to now. A few of my friends were raving about the show afterward, but I thought things were kinda hit-or-miss. I consider myself a Bob Dylan fan, but I came to a realization that the twenty or so albums I have were all recorded over twenty five years ago. So it shouldnít have come as a real surprise that I recognized seven of the seventeen songs he did tonight. Some of those ("Itís Alright, Ma" & "Girl From The North Country") were only recognizable via the lyrics, delivered in a stylized, raspy whisper. "Itís All Over Now, Baby Blue" was relatively true to the original melody, while "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll" was reworked as something of a piano ballad. "Highway 61" was actually recognizable from the instrumental intro on, the bluesy boogie treatment sounding like a slightly more subdued "Tush".

The home stretch of the show featured mostly up-tempo songs- "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum" and "Summer Days" stood out. Bob pulled out a couple of more popular older songs for the last couple of songs in the encore. "Like a Rolling Stone" featured an instrumental pause right at the line "How Does It Feel?"- the drums, alone, continued for a moment before the rest of the band jumped back in. The evening ended with "All Along The Watchtower", the arrangement owing much to what Jimi Hendrix did to the song way back when.

3/5/04 Rex Hobart And The Misery Boys, Frederickís. Rex plays at Fredís 3 or 4 times a year, but this was the first time in quite a while that heís brought his backing band, The Misery Boys. So tonight, Rexís impressive singing and killer classic-sounding country songs were fleshed out with rumbling electric guitar and chiming steel guitar leadsÖall heard loud and clear through the brand new pair of speakers hanging from the ceiling. (hopefully this will lead to consistently better sound quality at Fredís)

Iím guessing that Rex is younger than me, so Iím pleasantly surprised that he finds sixties classic country as a source of inspiration (apparently, not everyone of this generation was raised on MTV). His songs have that hard-country sound and feature clever turn-of-phrase lyrics, along the lines of Roger Miller or Harlan Howard. Songs like "Stuck Between A Rock And A Heartache", "Here Comes Nothing" and "Lie For A Lie, Truth For A Truth" follow the tradition of songs like "Wine Me Up". This stuff may not be accessible to most folks, but I love it. Other songs I remember, in no particular order: "Happy Birthday To You, Broken Heart" (our friend Deb was celebrating her birthday tonight), "Iím Not Drunk Enough" and "Take It Back (Before You Mean It)". The encore featured the lead guitar player singing Waylonís "Are Sure Hank Done It This Way?"- his voice reminded me quite a bit of Billy Joe Shaver.

3/6/04 Marshall Crenshaw, The Duck Room. It was interesting seeing this guy just a few days after seeing Bob Dylan. On a much smaller scale, a lot of the same things were in play: Hereís a guy who won over most of his fans a long time ago, and has continued to put out a steady stream of albums since. So once again, weíve got an older crowd who are probably lots more familiar with the earlier stuff than what followed. And like Mr. Zimmerman, Crenshaw delivered a mix of the old and new.

With no sidemen, he sang and played an electric hollowbody guitar seated in a chair. He wasted no time in giving the audience what they wanted, opening with "Someday, Someway", from his 1982 debut album (possibly his best known song). The sound was crystal clear- you could hear every word he sang and the crowd was quiet and attentive. (I had to move one time, because the only guy talking in the whole crowd was standing right behind me). Next came a well-chosen cover- Grant Hartís "2541", a song Iíve loved from the time it came out in 1988. This came as a total joyous surprise- it worked very well with Crenshawís heart-on-the-sleeve delivery and simple instrumentation.

But while Dylan chose to rework the tempos and arrangements of his older material, Crenshaw delivered his pretty much intact, albeit accompanied by only one guitar. Songs from the early days included "Mary Ann" and "My Favorite Waste Of Time". The lonely feel of "There She Goes Again" benefited from tonightís spare, solo treatment. And whatís not to love about "Cynical Girl"? The lyrics are smart-ass and quixotic all at once- hereís a wide-eyed guy seeking all the right attributes in a lover- she needs to be cynical! ÖAnd it all gets told over that infectious melody- this is three minutes of brilliance.

Newer songs included "Dime A Dozen Guy" and "Television Light". Somewhere in the mix of older and newer songs was another cover- Johnny paycheckís "Barely Hanginí On To Me" (a version of which will be on the forthcoming Paycheck tribute CD). Covering this hard-core country singer might seem a bit of a stretch, but Paycheckís line "Since I let go of you, Iím barely hanging on to me" proved a fitting echo of the line "Iíve taken everything from you/Youíve taken everything from me" from "Someday, Someway". The last song of his encore presented one last surprise cover- The Bottle Rocketsí "$1,000 Car", recast from heavy and electric into a bluesy acoustic number and shifting more emphasis onto the lyrics.

3/6/04 The Forty-Fives, The Way Out Club. I arrived about six songs into their set. In stark contrast to the Marshall Crenshaw show across town, the sound was very loud and distorted- I couldnít make out a single word of any song. A couple of people tried to offer comments to me, but I couldnít hear what they were saying, either. Not necessarily a problem, when the genre is garage rock.

But somehow through the volume, each instrument could be heard distinctly. The lead guitar and bass sounded urgent and intense. At times the keyboards could sound like electric piano, but usually a surging Farfisa(?) sound came forward. Since I wasnít really exposed to this kind of music until sometime in the eighties (I was eight years old in itís heyday) I usually end up referencing the Lyres in trying to describe the ragged guitar/swelling keyboards thing. Tonight Steve S. brought up that comparison, so Iíve got confirmation, of sorts. In spite of a relatively light crowd (maybe twenty people in each room of The Way Out), these guys were most pumped and exhilarating. I canít help with any song titles, but their two-song encore ended with a Who cover. The kids are alright.

3/11/04 The Love Experts, Lemmonís. Coming from the (overtime) hockey game, we missed the first five or ten minutes of their set, but once I pulled up a chair at a table full of familiar faces and poured myself a beer, it didnít take long to get caught up in Steve Caroselloís quirky, yet cool songs and the way the band lights them up.

I gave my buddy, John my thumbnail Roxy Music/Soft Boys/Television description on the way over- he concurred, and added the Byrds during a particularly jangly song (guitarist Dave Collett was christening his new Rickenbacker tonight). Maybe it was the mix, but Steveís bass playing seemed especially inventive and animated tonight. Which of the two guitar players do I like better? Whichever one is currently taking a lead. Ironically, it turns out that the band was not totally satisfied with this set- but the overall glow that comes from what these guys do far eclipses any technical miscues that may have happened. In addition to the ever-pleasing "Your Shining Hour" and "Bright Red Carnations" a new one, "Reverie" stood out. This being a school night, I didnít stick around to hear Brain Regiment close out the evening- some other time.

3/12/04 Graham Lindsey, Frederickís. This was an intimate evening of solo/acoustic singer/songwriters. Fred and Kathleen were parked up front at the foot of the stage, while another twenty or so people were scattered about the room. Ben Weaver opened with a very even set of dark originals. With a voice like that of a more gruff Steve Earle, Weaverís songs consistently painted somber pictures of life gone awry- kinda like Minneapolisí version of our own Tim Rakel. If talking was walking and singing was flying, this guyís voice never got very far off of the ground- his acoustic guitar would establish a steady chord progression as his bleak, half-spoken words cast a captivating tone. Over the course of an extended set, things got to be a bit monochromatic- I think Iíd be more impressed by a well-chosen isolated song than an entire CD from this guy.

The debut CD by Graham Lindsey showed up as number one on Fred Frictionís "best of 2003" list- that was enough to get me to buy the disc a while ago and show up tonight. This guy is all lean and wiry and delivers his ragged songs in a somewhat nasal voice that invites comparisons to early Bob Dylan. Acoustic guitar and harmonica were his primary accompaniment, but for certain songs he would switch over to national steel guitar (or something akin) or banjo (plucked in a primitive manner and offering another color in his palette). Fred offered up impromptu accompaniment on spoons and shaker-egg on a few songs near the end. The varied instrumentation and song structures kept things interesting throughout his set. A few song titles I remember: "Emma Rumble", "If I Was A Horse", "Hey, Hey", "You Will Be Alright" and "I Wonít Let You Down".

   

 

 

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