Jerry Leger & The Situation are one of Canada's best bands in years. I wrote a review of their album "Nonsense & Heartache" after seeing them live in Toronto a few weeks back. Now, they're on their first ever European tour. By all reports, things are going very well. There's still a week to go and 5 more gigs to play in England including Glasgow, Durham, Manchester and London. After that it's back home to Canada with more dates planned in May in Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI. If you're a fan of indie rock with a retro vibe, check them out.
My brother managed to catch a couple of shows in Ireland, and although the crowds were thinner than expected, the shows were excellent. Here's some video of a few of the songs from the set taken from the "Heartache" portion of the "Nonsense & Heartache" album. "Big Smoke Blues" is my favorite. If you haven't picked up the album, I highly recommend it.
Have you seen Jerry Leger live? Listened to his album? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
I had the good fortune of seeing Jerry Leger & The Situation live in Toronto recently. They have a strong local following for their regular gig at Castro's Lounge in the Beaches area of town. While guitarist and pedal steel player James McKie was not in attendance, the band plays well as a trio and it was an excellent show.
The band pulled heavily from Leger's most recent double album "Nonsense & Heartache," which I highly recommend. The album was produced by Cowboy Junkies guitarist Michael Timmins. In a single album Leger manages to cram a lifetime of film noir vignettes with titles such as "Forged Check," "Coat on the Rack," "Hired Gun," "Baby's Got a Rare Gun," and "She's The Best Writer You've Never Heard Of." the album is pulling from a wide range of influences including '50s rock and roll, R&B, Blues and Rockabilly sounding like a mix of "Highway 61 Revisited," "Watching The Detectives," and "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing."
Leger has been playing with the Situation for ten years and in an earlier era, they would have earned a gold record and sold-out shoes across America. As it stands, they will be embarking on a month-long tour of Europe starting this week with dates in Germany, Sweden, Norway, UK and Ireland. In May they'll be touring Canada. Hopefully momentum for this album will build and they'll undertake a tour of the US in the fall.
I managed to shoot a couple of videos which you can view below. If you have the chance to see them on tour, I highly recommend it. And tell 'em Zack said hi.
And for comparison, here's the official video for "Big Smoke Blues," which was also shot at Castro's Lounge and around Toronto.
I'm a bit behind in my posts, so I'll keep this one short. Paul Weller did a US tour, following his fall European tour, and I managed to see him live in Detroit at St Andrew's Hall. I'd seen Weller some years earlier at the Warfield in San Francisco and that was a good show.
More than 10 years later, the Modfather is rocking harder than ever. His voice was in great shape, the band was tight and they also played a much broader range of songs including hits from The Jam, The Style Council and his early solo work. I never thought I'd get to hear "My Ever Changing Moods" live and it was incredible. Songs
Guitar player and longtime sidekick Steve Craddock from Ocean Color Scene was in absolutely stellar form. They also played songs from the two most recent albums "A Kind Revolution" and the awesome "Saturns Patterns." Because it was Detroit, he finished off with a nice Motown set including the old Jam standby "Heat Wave."
It was a great show and I captured a couple of songs on video.
I was able to see quite a few good shows this past year, including Paul Weller, Paul Kelly, Wishbone Ash, Jethro Tull and more. But the best gig by far was a December show by Greta Van Fleet. Although they're a Michigan band, I wasn't able to get tickets to their sold-out Detroit shows. Instead, my wife managed to get $10 tickets (!) in Kansas and we turned it into a weekend road trip.
For those who don't know, Greta Van Fleet are classic rock's latest up-and-coming superstars. This is a young band, ranging from 18-21 years in age. Oh, and three of them are brothers. It's hard to believe, but these young kids rock as hard as Led Zep ever did. In fact the first time my wife heard their hit single "Highway Tune" last summer, she thought it was some long-lost Zeppelin song that had never been released. They've only released 8 songs so far, and the songs on their initial EP are definitely in the Page/Plant school of classic rock. It will be interesting to see how they expand their range and repertoire as they release more material.
And while they are young musicians, they have incredible chops. The band may not always have the greatest stage presence --singer Josh Kiszka is tentative on occasion -- but they are one of the tightest bands I have ever heard. They sound like they've been playing together night after night for years on end. Which is exactly what they have been doing.
If you get a chance to see them live, I highly recommend it. Looks like their next tour takes them through Europe in the spring.
Here's a short video from the concert as well as the official video for Highway Tune.
Paul Kelly has been one of my favorite musicians since a trip a few years back to Australia. A buddy set me up with an iPhone full of Australian music and Paul Kelly's "Songs of the South" greatest hits album ended up in heavy rotation. In the fall, I saw that he had released a new album "Life is Fine" which was shooting up the charts, and embarking on a tour of North America. Even better, my other Australian mate Rob got tickets to see him at Slim's in San Francisco.
Although Kelly only went on stage at 10pm (a late night for an old fart like me!) it was a corker of a shoe. Slim's is a modest size club (capacity of about 500) and they were mostly full, which is pretty good for a weeknight. I'm pretty sure I was the only non-Australian there and everyone seemed to have had about 4 more beers than I did. So it was a lively and exuberant audience. With five decades of touring and recording, Paul Kelly is a national treasure in Australia; he's written songs that are uniquely Australian with world-wide appeal.
Kelly has quite a bit of acoustic and bluegrass music in his background, but I was glad that this was more of a rock and roll show with a full band. He played the new album "Life is Fine" in its entirety and then went into a greatest hits set with two encores. The new album is good, though I was not familiar with it. I recognized just about every song after that including classics like "From St Kilda to King's Cross," "To Her Door," "Before Too Long," "How to Make Gravy," and "Darling It Hurts." The show ran two hours and it was one of the best shows of the year.
Here's a video of a song "Firewood & Candles" from the new album.
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, one of my favorite bands in the last twenty years, is on tour promoting their first new album in seven years. Although the album "The Hanged Man" was mostly composed and performed by Ted Leo as a solo project, this is a full band tour. I managed to see them at Detroit's Magic Stick club and it was a great show.
There were two local opening acts Someone Who Isn't Me (SWIM) and the delightfully energetic punk pop band Ryan Allen and his Extra Arms. Ryan and crew did a great job with 110db of high energy rock loaded with hooks. Ryan's a fan of Ted Leo from way back and the band certainly held their own with this audience.
Ted Leo went on stage about 9:40pm. Although there was no separate encore, it was a two hour show which was not bad for a Wednesday night. The band was incredibly tight with Leo's trademark distorted punk guitar, a powerful rhythm section with the full force of drummer Chris Wilson, Adrienne Berry on sax and backing vocals, and at times three (!) guitar players resulting in a wonderfully frenetic and soulful sound. There were only minor order changes in the setlist from shows in Toronto, Boston, DC in the last week. The tour is drawing heavily from the new album, which is quite solid.
Leo was garrulous about his descent into piano and acoustic guitar singer-songwriter form, but the songs don't need any apologies. Highlights included the upbeat R&B influenced "Can't Go Back," "Run to the City," "Lonsdale Avenue" and "Let's Stay On The Moon." There's still plenty of fast-paced songs, but Leo is painting from a wider palette than previously with a couple of more relaxed songs, rich in vocal harmonies. But when the band got to the more rocking numbers, they were full-on explosive and moving in a chaotic choreography. Despite Ted's protestations that his voice was rough, he sang beautifully.
The band also played a good assortment of songs from earlier albums including "Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?," "Parallel or Together," "The High Party," and my favorite song "Biomusicology." I think we can all agree "Biomusicology" is one of the greatest songs ever written. Heck it could be a Lennon / McCartney / Strummer / Weller composition, for all I can tell. That song just sends a chill down my spine. And although I was hoping to hear "Timorous Me" in an encore, the rest of the material was so good and the banter so enjoyable I can't fault Leo for skipping a couple of songs.
I managed to shoot video of several of these songs. I think the audio captured and processed on my iPhone is possibly better than it sounded at the club. I always find the mix at MagicStick to suffer from too much bass and drum and not enough vocals.
The band is on it's way to Chicago and touring coast-to-coast through December. If you haven't seen Ted Leo live before, this is a tour worth catching.
If you grew up in the '70s Jethro Tull was a band that was hard not to notice. They had a slew of FM radio hits and a distinct flute-driven sound ranging from blues to hard rock to prog to folk. Whether you loved Tull or hated it, it was immediately recognizable. Ian Anderson, was the songwriter, vocalist, flautist and arranger that defined Jethro Tull. Iconoclast that he was, he cycled through more than two dozen band mates over five decades, dispensing with the second longest-running member of Tull, guitarist Martin Barre, back in 2011.
I managed to see the latest incarnation of Jethro Tull (or more accurately, "Jethro Tull by Ian Anderson") at Interlochen this week. Although I'm not a huge Tull fan, I'm familiar with their '70s hits. There is a certain sameness to a few of the songs ("Locomotive Breath," "Cross-Eyed Mary," "Hymn 43" all sound the same to me) but there's an inventiveness in the standout songs like "Thick as Brick," "A New Day Yesterday," "Living in the Past," and their jazzy interpretation of Bach's "Bourrée." And of course, what can be said of "Aqualung" --a song that has arguably one of the greatest guitar solos of all time. (Guitarist Martin Barre claims it was recorded in a single take, fearing that if he dallied, Anderson would put another flute solo in its place.)
The band played a lot of the classic songs drawing heavily from the late '60s and early 70s, along with a few more recent songs and instrumentals. And while the band was incredibly tight (they play virtually the same set list every night on this tour), the concert was a bit of a mixed bag. The flute playing, the guitar, the keyboards, the drum solo were all excellent, but...
I knew that Anderson's vocals had deteriorated in the '80s, due to a heavy touring schedule that inflicted permanent damage. Anderson's range has become more limited and his voice has lost the rich, smooth sound that characterized his best work. While not awful, it was clear as the night wore on, he's not doing the songs justice.
And this is not intended as a knock on Anderson. He is a bona fide musical genius having released 30 albums, won awards by the score and invented an entire genre. Heck he can still play the flute on one foot. And at 71, there would be no shame in sharing the singing duties with another performer.
During Aqualung, the last song before the encore, there was a video with a second vocalist, Ryan O'Donnell, who toured with the band a few years earlier, singing some of the verses. Similarly, on Heavy Horses, he had video of singer and violinist Unnur Birna from Iceland performing some parts. Personally, I think it would be great to have a second vocalist singing along with Anderson, or alternating songs or verses or lines. However, pulling up a video with a vocal backing track seems a bit cheesy to me. Still the band was great and guitar player Florian Opahle put his own mark on Martin Barre's original solo.
Jethro Tull is coming upon it's 50th anniversary in 2018, which is pretty crazy if you think about it. If you haven't seen Tull before, or if you want to relive some of those memories, check out their latest tour with dates in the US, UK and Europe coming up. Sadly, it seems unlikely Ian Anderson will be able to sing as well as he used to, and unless he brings back Ryan O'Donnell, the vocals are going to be pretty weak.
Here's a video of the encore, the classic Aqualung. Skip ahead to 3:10 if you want to get to the awesome solo.
The Summer concert season has kicked off in Northern Michigan with a concert by The Accidentals at Fountain Point Resort, just outside Traverse City. The Accidentals just wrapped up a 40 city tour and are preparing for the launch of their new album on Sony Music Masterworks in August.
The Accidentals are a bit of a local legend in Traverse City, forming the band while in high school and entering into the Interlochen Center For the Arts first-ever singer-songwriter program. Based on their success, they chose to skip college and have been touring and recording ever since. As a result, they've got massive music chops playing a dozen instruments between them and they have wonderful vocal harmonies offset by violin, cello, electric guitar and bass.
Although The Accidentals mostly play original and fairly eclectic Folk /Jazz / Roots music, they also occasional throw in a rock cover or two. Here's a video from an earlier concert covering "Taxman" and Rush's "Tom Sawyer" showing them for the music geeks that they are.
Fountain Point Resort has more than a dozen concerts planned through the rest of the summer on Thursday and Sunday evenings including The Crane Wives, The Go Rounds, Jazz North and more. Tickets are $10-20 with an outdoor bring-your-own lawnchair setting. There are food trucks, but you can also bring your own food and alcohol. You can also buy a season pass for $95.
I know everyone and his brother has written something about Chuck Berry's passing recently at the age of 90. Chuck Berry was truly the architect of rock and roll. As Jim Derogatis and Greg Kott put it on Sound Opinions, there was music before Chuck Berry, and there was music after Chuck Berry. He influenced multiple generations of bands and musicians ranging from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, The Band, Eric Clapton, The Grateful Dead, Steve Miller, Ted Nugent, Bob Seger, ELO, The Sex Pistols, AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, you name it. He was a brilliant showman and a heckuva songwriter.
However, a lot of Berry's album recordings sound pretty tame. It's only when you see him live on stage that you appreciate what he brought to rock and roll. From the late 60's onwards, Berry's tradition was to play with whatever local backing band could be assembled, showing up minutes before the show, plugging in and getting to work. No set list, no rehearsal, no soundcheck, no instructions to the band. It was just "hang on tight, play some Chuck Berry tunes and don't screw up." Luckily every band in the world at that time knew Chuck Berry's music and musicians were honored to play with him.
Luckily filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker and his crew were on hand to capture some remarkable footage from a 45 minute set at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival in 1969. It's staggering to consider the bands on the bill: Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Alice Cooper, Chicago, John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, as well as The Doors. Twelve hours of live music! Not bad for $6 CDN.
Chuck Berry who was 41 at the time, was clearly in the "oldies" category, but he's at the peak of his abilities. He rocks with an intensity that shows the depth and breadth of his talents. He's engaging, warm, his vocals are great and his playing is brilliant. The local Toronto musicians, from two local bands Nucleus and Flapping, were pulled together just 15 minutes before the show and had no idea what was coming next. And despite a couple of cool looks from Berry, the band held their own. It made for a great show.
The Toronto Rock and Roll Revival was famous for several other things. First of all, it was the first concert where the audience lit lighters to illuminate the venue. That was done at emcee Kim Fowley's direction to make John Lennon less nervous at what was essentially the unveiling of the Plastic Ono Band. And finally, this concert was the source of Alice Cooper's infamous "chicken incident."
It might have been a slow Sunday evening for some folks, but I managed to score great seats to Elvis Costello & The Imposters playing at the historic Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. I've seen Elvis about half a dozen times over the years and this was by far the best show of them all. While the tour purported to focus on his 1982 somewhat-overlooked album "Imperial Bedroom" the band played at least as many songs from earlier albums. Which is good, because "Imperial Bedroom" is overlooked for a reason -- it's not as good as the material that came before it! Ok this is just my opinion, but I'm the guy writing the review, so bear with me.
At any rate, he kicked things off with "Lipstick Vogue" from "This Year's Model" and played a good mix of songs from the late '70s and early '80s including "Accidents Will Happen", "Tears Before Bedtime", "Shabby Doll," "Man Out of Time," "Beyond Belief," "Green Shirt," "Kid About It," "You Little Fool" and an epic version of "Watching the Detectives."
They took a short break and came back with "Alison" with just Elvis and his two soulful backup singers Kitten Kuroi and YahZarah, with a style straight out of Stax. He also did a nice version of "Shot With His Own Gun" and "Almost Blue" accompanied only by Steve Nieve on piano. Costello was never the strongest of vocalists for this type of work, but he (mostly) managed to pull it off.
And for whatever smooth edges Elvis lacks vocally, he's more than willing to make up for it in guitar. In fact, I'd say he played more out-there crazy guitar in this concert than I've ever heard him play before. It gave the whole evening a tremendous energy boost.
The encore was a fantastic set including "Every Day I Write The Book," "Pump It Up" and "What's So Funny About Peace Love & Understanding."
Costello rocked the house for nearly 2 1/2 hours over 27 songs. For a guy who's pushing 62, he showed that he can still bring it on every night. And in retrospect, I still don't love "Imperial Bedroom" but I will admit that "Almost Blue", "Man Out Of Time" and "Beyond Belief" are among Costello's best songs.
Overall, it was a great concert and it appears that he's playing a slightly different mix of songs every night on this tour. If you get the chance to see him, I highly recommend it.
I managed to shoot a couple of videos from the concert including "Lipstick Vogue", "Accidents Will Happen" and "Watching the Detectives."
In 2014, I managed to see the legendary band Televsion live in Toronto --something I never thought would happen. This is one of my all-time favorite bands since 1977's Marquee Moon. Alas, they broke up after their second album, reformed briefly in the early '90s and faded out of existence. Nonetheless, they reformed one more time in the 2000s and seeing them live in Toronto was one of the best concerts of my life.
It's hard to top that kind of experience. I'm not even sure it's prudent to try. But when Television announced they would be playing in Santa Cruz (as well as two gigs in San Francisco) how could I not go? This tour was promoted (was it promoted?) as being built around rare tracks and instrumentals. Phew. That meant I could go and enjoy it without having any outsized expectations. After all, not every experiment succeeds. But it is in that experimentation, that trial by-fire ordeal, that high-wire performance without a net, we can find greatness. Sometimes.
So how was it?
The band was tight. Particularly on songs off their debut album "Marquee Moon", one of the most influential albums of all time. Having three fourths original band members doesn't hurt. Jimmy Rip who took over from the talented but, ah, eccentric, guitarist Richard Lloyd may now have more gigs under his belt than his predecessor. That said, everyone is a couple years older, and Tom Verlaine's vocals, which were never that strong, are not getting any better with time. And as much as I enjoyed the more obscure songs ("Persia," "The Sea") and various instrumental wanderings, I didn't find them as compelling as some of the more, ah, normal, songs. When I hear a song like "Venus," "Elevation," or "1880 or So" it sends shivers down my spine.
To be clear, I would pay to see Television play "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" if that's what they wanted to play. I mean, as long as they played a couple of cuts off "Marquee Moon."
Anyways, check out the videos below. Apologies that the last song is slightly out of focus.
For fans who managed to see Television in 2016, let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.
Following out this week's concert extravaganza, the third gig in 7 days was Cheap Trick. I've seen Cheap Trick before and despite the legal drama with original drummer Bun E. Carlos, they are still a great live band. Following Cheap Trick's inclusion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the release of a great new album "Bang Zoom Crazy Hello" Cheap Trick is currently touring with Joan Jett and Heart. But if that wasn't enough to keep them busy, they are also doing one-off gigs on their own, which is what brought them to Traverse City for the Cherry Festival.
With a career that spans 5 decades, 17 studio albums and numerous hit singles, the band has a pretty big catalog to draw from. They also tend to mix things up a bit in different shows, so it's not always the same songs every night, which is nice. They started off strong with their usual show opener "Hello There," followed by "Just Got Back," "California Man," "On Top Of The World," "Baby Loves to Rock," and "Taxman, Mr Thief," an obvious Beatles reference from their first album and "Never Had a Lot to Lose" and "The House is a Rocking" from Dream Police. The band played with a ton of energy. Robin Zander's vocals are in fine form and he still looks good in skinny leather pants and a cape. Rick Nielsen is all over the stage, swapping out a new guitar for every song, flinging picks into the audience and goofing around as always. The rhythm section is extremely solid with Tom Petersson on bass and Dax, Rick's son, on drums, pounding like hurricane.
Then they played a couple of songs from their new album "Bang Zoom Crazy Hello:" "The In Crowd," and "No Direction Home." Personally, I think it's a great album, possibly the best since the '70s era and I wish they'd played a few more cuts. Next up was "The Ballad of TV Violence" followed by what was a great solo by Tom Petersson on his unique 12-string Gretsch bass (!) that went into a cover of The Velvet Underground's "Waiting for My Man" with Petersson on vocals. This was followed by the ballad "The Flame" and then the big hits: "I Want You To Want Me," "Dream Police" and an encore of "Surrender." That song still gives me goose bumps.
Rick Nielsen then brought out his crazy 50 pound 5 neck Hamer guitar for a short "Goodnight." The whole set was about 90 minutes leaving everyone thirsty for just a few more songs.
Here are a couple of videos I shot. I'll also try to post some high-def photos later on.
The opening band was the born-and-bred in Traverse City Kenny Olson. It was a a bit too generic-hard-rock-guitar for my taste, but they did manage to get the audience on their feet and Kenny is a great blues guitar player.