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July 2007

Rock Band Features Fender Gear

Rockband_2 

Rock Band, an upcoming computer video game by Harmonix, the original developers of Guitar Hero, will feature Fender guitars along with Roland and Boss gear.  The game aims to one up Guitar Hero by enabling multiple players to interact online with virtual drums, bass, guitar and vocals to jam in real time to a wide range of rock music. 

Harmonix, now part of MTV, has announced the game will be distributed by Electronic Arts on Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation 3 platforms in time for the 2007 Christmas season. If it's anywhere near as good as Guitar Hero, it will likely appeal to a huge audience of gamers and rockers alike.  Nailing a guitar solo in a video game is not quite as challenging as the real thing, but it's a heckuva a lot of fun.

Meanwhile, Activision, which bought Red Octane, the publisher of the multi-million selling Guitar Hero games, has hinted at new developments including a long-rumored 80's edition as well as a forthcoming Guitar Hero III for the Nintendo Wii platform.  Can't wait to see the full track lists for these...

Update: A good article describing the appeal of Rock Band is available in Gaming Today. Also news about the Guitar Hero III track list which includes songs by the Stones, Kiss, Alice Cooper and Foghat among others.


Roger Waters Dark Side of the Moon

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Following on last week's Police gig in Oakland, I went to see Roger Waters perform Dark Side of the Moon, one of the top 5 best performing rock albums at all time, at the samller adjacent Oracle Stadium basketball arena. 

Waters, as most readers probably know, is the bass player, lyricist and writer of much of Pink Floyd's master works.  While Waters' dark vision and relentless ego created a lot of infighting in Pink Floyd, ending with a nearly unreconciliable split in the 1980's, the band re-formed the original line-up with David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright at last year's Live 8 concert.  And at 64, Waters continues to put out occasional albums, write new songs and perform much of the classic Pink Floyd catalog.  And I admit, as a guitar player, if I had to chose sides, I am more of a David Gilmour fan.

Nonetheless, I managed to score a seat for the concert just 2 days before hand on www.craigslist.org for less than face value.  And I'm glad I did. 

For anyone who did not get a chance to see Pink Floyd's Pulse tour from 1994 this is as close as you can get to seeing a classic Floyd concert, or at least a reasonable facsimile.  Waters' has mellowed somewhat over the years and it's great to see him performing and enjoying his work at the age of 64.  Indeed, he looks as fit and trim as a man twenty year's younger.  I hope I can be enjoying my work as much as him when I'm 60.

The show is divided into three parts: an opening set of songs culled from Pink Floyd songs and some Roger Waters solo songs, then following a brief intermission, Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety; and finally an encore of even more Pink Floyd.

Waters has put together a fantastic band and some impressive videos, lasers, pyrotechnics, a floating pig and other 80's era visuals recalling old school rock concerts of years gone by.  (And to be honest, I think there was more marijuana in the air at this show than I've ever witnessed.  That and garlic fries, but I'm not sure of the causal relationship there.)

The music was precise and polished.  While I don't care for some of Water's solo material (Leaving Beirut is worse than boring -- it is a sonic mismatch of 50's style rock with anti-Bush screed) Waters has an amazing back catalog to draw from.  The set included Wish You Were Here, Have a Cigar, Sheep and Another Brick in the Wall among others.

The rendition of Dark Side of the Moon was superb, note perfect, including the wailing vocals on Great Gig in the Sky.  And if there was any criticism, it's that it is too perfect.  It comes across as an homage to the band that isn't there with no room for improvisation or experimentation.  The guitarist, David Kilminster, did a great job, but let's face it, with anyone other than David Gilmour playing the solo on Money they're just a glorified cover band.  And while the band has good vocals all round, it's just not the same.

Still, it was a good show, even if it's too perfect, and it's as close as we're likely to get to a Pink Floyd show anytime soon.  Check out the tour dates through the US this summer. Also check out clips on YouTube.

 


Police in Oakland

Policeoakland

Okay so maybe the most widely anticipated reunion concert of the summer didn't live up to its massive expectations.    But The Police did put on a pretty decent show at Oakland Coliseum the other night to a packed crowd of 45,000 some fans.  My friend Steve rated it a solid B, which I think is pretty fair. It was a very big venue --may be too big --and this was still one of the earlier gigs on the tour.  So perhaps things will  evolve as they get more experience under their belt and get used to playing very large crowds again.

The opening acts (Fiction Plane, The Fratelli's) played to a pretty sparse audience.  And honestly, other than the fact that Sting's son leads Fiction Plane and The Fratelli's have a hit single used in an iPod commercial, it wasn't that memorable.  But you knew that already.  No one's really there to see the opening act, they're there to see The Police.

There was excitement in the air as they started the opening chords to message in a bottle.  Unfortunately a lot of the electricity got dispersed immediately as the sound was pretty lousy at first.  And frankly the song was played a little bit down tempo and lacking in energy.  To me the first part of the show was somewhat hit or miss.  There were slightly changed arrangements of songs, reworkings of  tunes and key changes.  Maybe this was just to make it easier for Sting's aging vocal cords to stay within range, I don't know.  But the newer arrangements weren't any better than the old ones.  In fact, they were worse. 

It wasn't until they got back to some of the earlier material in its original form that you started to feel the energy and excitement of what made The Police great.  That said, Sting's vocals were strong, his bass playing was precise , Andy Summer's guitar work was top-notch and Stewart Copeland's drumming was superb. But it was only Copeland who seemed to be really enjoying himself onstage.  I think it was 60 minutes into the show before I saw Sting lighten up.  And I'm not sure I've ever seen Andy Summers smile, maybe he's just too focused on filling in all the guitar pieces. He cut loose with some great solos and a lot of energy but boy does he look serious.

The set included most of the classic songs you would expect, including Can't Stand Losing You, Every Breath You Take, King of Pain, De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da, Walking on the Moon, Driven to Tears, Invisible Sun, Wrapped Around Your Finger and others.  For me, the highlights were the songs from the first two albums including The Beds Too Big Without You, So Lonely, Roxanne and the finale, a frenzied version of Next to You that bordered on chaotic.  That took me back 26 years ago when I saw the police in Montreal at McGill University.  I just wish more of the show had the energy and raw power they showed on the ending numbers.


Wanted: Police Tix - Oakland June 13

Police

The Police are coming to Oakland, Calif June 13, and I still haven't found tickets.  I was hoping they'd announce an extra date in the bay area, but alas, this seems unlikely now.  I don't want to pay scalper fees, so if anyone has an angle on tickets, let me know.  It's my birthday and I think this will be a good gig.  Ok, I'm begging.

Update:
Marvelous Marv came through for me with two tickets in section 107 at face value, no less. Yippee!  Full Report next week.