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August 2008
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October 2008

The Rocker - Worst Rock Movie Ever?


My wife and I went to see The Rocker last night.  I'm a big fan of Rainn Wilson, especially in his role as Dwight, the clueless cubicle dweller in The Office.  So I had high expectations going in, along the lines of Spinal Tap meets The Office.  Forget it.  This movie is the worst rock movie I have seen in ages.  Maybe the worst rock movie ever.

I can forgive the premise of a Pete Best type story of a drummer who gets booted from his band just before their career takes off and then 20 years later takes up with some high school kids to give it another shot.  And I can forgive the pop pastiche songs, which were better than I had feared.  But what can't be forgiven is that there's no humor in this movie.  The writing is without humor or dramatic tension.  So what you're left with is the equivalent of a Disney after school special.  What's worse is the movie has a great cast with SNL and 30 Rock alumni including Jason Sudeikis as the slimey record company rep, camoes by Amy Poehler, and Fred Armisen, Will Arnett and Lonny Ross who make up the fictional Vesuvius in the style of GnR.  Unfortunately, the funniest people in the movie have a total of about 6 lines and not a single joke between them.  All tolled there are maybe 2 decent jokes in the entire movie.  One features Pete Best though it's not even clear until you see the credits.

This is a dud of a movie.  Don't go see it and don't even rent it on DVD.  Just avoid it.  If you want a great rock comedy movie, check out Spinal Tap, Still Crazy, my favorite of the genre.

Queen + Paul Rodgers Live in Latvia

It's just after midnight local time and my head is swimming from a great concert and lots of Latvian beer.  Quick summary:

  • Paul Rodgers was great
  • Brian May was superb
  • Latvian audiences don't sing along
  • Latvian beer is excellent
  • Arena hotdogs are awful
  • The prime minister of Latvia plays drums pretty darned well!

It was a great show, very hard rocking.  With a band like Queen it's hard to cover all the hits people would want to hear, but they did a good job selecting a broad range of songs that worked well with Paul Rodgers on vocals.  So don't expect to hear "Killer Queen" but Rodgers was more than capable on classics like "We Will Rock You" and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love."  Additionally the songs from Paul Rodgers' history with Free and Bad Company blended in great.  I was curious how they would tackle something as defnitively Freddie  Mercury as "Bohemian Rhapsody" and what they did was quite inventive: they had video footage of Freddie singing the introduction and then added the band and Paul Rodgers in later.  It was a very fitting tribute. 

Even though our seats were quite far back, the sound was incredibly loud. Luckily I had earplugs!    I managed to shoot some video and photos using my smuggled in Canon G9, but we were pretty far back and so they are quite grainy.  One weird highlight of the show: they brought out the Prime Minister of Latvia, Ivars Godmanis, to play drums on "Alright Now."  He must have played professionally because he did a great job. 

The setlist included:

  • One Vision / Tie Your Mother Down *
  • Fat Bottom Girls
  • Another One Bites the Dust *
  • I Want It All
  • Break Free
  • C-lebrity *
  • Love of My Life (acoustic)
  • '39
  • Drum solo
  • I'm In Love with my Car
  • Say It's Not True
  • Bad Company *
  • War Boys
  • Feel Like Making Love *
  • Guitar solo / Bijou / Last Horizon *
  • Crazy Little Thing Called Love *
  • The Show Must Go On
  • Radio Gaga
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Cosmos Rocks *
  • Alright Now (with prime minister Ivars Godmanis)
  • We Will Rock You / Champions of the World *

* = Video posted on YouTube

Update: Note sure why it took so long for YouTube to process the videos, but I've finally posted all of them.  Again, sorry for the low quality.  I'm open to recommendations on a better compact camera.

Brian May's Red Special


As it turns out, the crew for tonight's Queen + Paul Rodgers concert stayed at the same hotel as me in Riga, Latvia.  So I managed to spend a few minutes with Brian May's long time guitar techs including Pete Malandrone.  They're the ones charged with making sure that all of Brian May's guitars (five electrics plus two acoustics) are in tip top shape for the show and that there are no "Van Halen" style meltdowns.  But most importantly, they were hand carrying May's original "Red Special" guitar --the guitar that was handmade by May and his father back in the 60's with the neck being made from an 18th century mahogany fireplace.  No, not one of the fine replicas, but the original.  Needless to say they didn't offer to let me play it.  In fact, when I asked what it costs to insure, Pete said it was more than they were worth.  No wonder they were so protective!

Redspecial_2 The Red Special is about as custom a guitar as you can get.  It's unique tone and sustain is immediately recognizable and has powered more hits for Queen than I can count.  You will never get your hands on the original, but you will be able to see it on the current tour. 

But there have been a number of high quality replicas over the years by Guild Guitar and Burns Guitars respectively.  The latest and greatest replica is from no less than Brian May Guitars in the UK, a venture that leverages the combined guitar talents of Brian May, Pete Malandrone and Barry Moorhouse of House Music.

Pete reported that the gigs in Ukraine and Russia went well.  But I couldn't get him to divulge a whole lot more about tonight's show.  My guess is they'll start with either "One Vision" (about the 1986 Live Aid concert) or "Cosmos Rockin'" from the upcoming CD.  Stay tuned!

Queen + Paul Rodgers

Queen + Paul Rodgers have teamed up for a new tour that kicked off in Ukraine and then goes through Europe.  As it turns out, I'll be in Latvia on business and will catch them live in Riga, of all places. 

Unlike the last tour in 2004 - 2005 which seemed to a tribute to Freddie Mercury, this time they'll be promoting a new studio album "The Cosmos Rocks" expected in October.  I've had a chance to hear some of the material and it's quite decent, especially if you like Paul Rodgers.  Rodgers is one of the most famous rock singers out there, going back thirty years with monster hits like "All Right Now," "Can't Get Enough of Your Love," "Shooting Star" and "Feel Like Makin' Love."   He's got a rich deep voice that's perfect for a heavy blues rock sound. 

If Queen had been content to just go out and do a greatest hits tour, they might have sought someone to sing more in the style of Freddie Mercury, but by chosing Rodgers, it's a different story.  Listening to the live "Return of the Champions" CD from the last tour, it's clear that Rodgers can take songs from Queen's back catalog and make them his own.  Some songs work better than others, but hits like "We Will Rock You," "Another One Bites the Dust" sound great.  There's a grittier, bluesier sound given Rodgers lower timbre and it works better than you might expect.  They also play a number of Paul Rodgers hits and those sound equally good with Dr. Brian May's unique guitar backing.

So I'm excited about seeing them live in Riga.  Not sure what else there is to do in Latvia, but I guess I'll find out.

Heartbreaker - Zeppelin Tribute

I am a sucker for a good classic rock tribute band.  More than just a cover band, a tribute band plays an entire show in the style of their rock idols.  The best of them do it with note-by-note precision as well as the costumes and stage show that recreates not only the sound, but the look of the original band.  The San Francisco bay area gets its fair share of tribute bands, whether it's Pink Floyd, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, or U2.  While some might deride tribute bands as unoriginal, my counter argument is that this is best way for the average fan to experience mega bands up close.  Sure, it's not the real thing, but let's face it, who can afford front row seats to some of these acts anyways? 

Recently, I managed to catch Heartbreaker, a tribute to Led Zeppelin --complete with wigs and costumes straight out of the 70's-- for their latest gig at Don Quixote's music hall in Felton.  For anyone in the bay area, this is a fantastic small venue at a decent mexican restaurant.  Who would have guessed? 

I've seen Heartbreaker before and I was impressed.  In fact, my first posting on this blog three years ago was about the band.  They were in good form as usual.  With the opening chords of "Heartbreaker" there was a wave of euphoria that swept over the audience, taking people back out of their normal concerns to a different place.  It's a testament to the enduring power of Led Zep that their music is still as moving more than 30 years later.  Heartbreaker played such classics as "Rock & Roll," "Communications Breakdown," "Whole Lotta Love," "Black Dog," "Over the Hills and Far Away," as well as other hits and some more obscure songs, covering the entire catalog.  Most of the songs were spot on with the power and intensity that Zep fans were craving.  But you could tell that the vocalist's range was not as good as it usually is, even with a lot of reverb.  But then again, the same is true for Robert Plant.  I managed to capture several songs on video with my trusty Canon G9 and also some quite decent photos and videos which I've posted online.

Heartbreaker has just a few gigs left on their current California tour, but I hope they'll add some more dates.  Be sure to check them out at their official site  There's also plenty of photos and videos from gigs around the world.


AC/DC: Straight to Walmart


Following in the footsteps of The Eagles and Journey, AC/DC is the latest big name rock band to do an exclusive Walmart deal for their upcoming CD.  "Black Ice," their latest release since the year 2000 "Stiff Upper Lip" is expected in mid October at Walmart and online directly from the band.  "Black Ice" is also available for pre-order from the web site.  (Also, according to GuitarFlame, AC/DC will use an Fm chord in this album!)

NobullPersonally, I could care less about The Eagles or Journey.  But at least AC/DC rocks.  They haven't exactly blazed new trails but the single "Rock & Roll Train" (available at the band's site) sounds promising.  Walmart is expected to price the new album at $11.88, a good deal less than major retailers have been charging for most CDs.  The band is also releasing today a DVD "No Bull (Director's Cut) of the 1996 tour in Spain for $10.99, which as even better deal.  Stay tuned for reviews!

While some are critical of bands that do deals with Walmart, I think it's a good thing.  The prices are lower than through normal retail channels and the bands get a bigger cut.  The fact that Walmart can do a better job releasing and distributing music CDs illustrates just what a crappy job the music labels have been doing.  So I'm all in favor of anything that hastens their demise. 

GuitarFlame - Best Guitar Blog of Romania


Like most blogs, I have a list of recommended sites over on the right-hand side of my blog.  Some of these are links to companies and some link to other blogs.  One of my favorites is GuitarFlame, a blog by Ovidiu Oprescu, a 31-year old guitar player from Romania with 14 years of guitar playing under his belt.  Ovidiu's blog is a great read for any guitar player.  He mixes it up with news, editorial, insights into live playing, you name it.  And even if the English isn't always perfect, it's quaint and definitely better than my Romanian! 

I don't think I've ever gone to his site and not learned something, whether it's about AC/DC's use of an Fm chord in their new album, Jeff Becks' 22 year-old bass player, the fastest guitar player in the world, or modelling guitars. He's also a regular commentor on this blog and even though I haven't met him in person, he seems like a really nice guy with a passionate flame for music.  Ovidiu is a gold medalist when it comes to blogging.  So wander over to GuitarFlame and cozy up to the fire!

Vampire Weekend

I've been looking for an excuse to write about Vampire Weekend and with the release of a video for "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," that's enough of reason for me. 

Vampire Weekend was formed by some students at Columbia University in New York and released their self-titled album earlier this year to much hype for their blend of pop and traditional African rhythms.  Who knows if this band will withstand the test of time, but if you're looking for easy going summertime listening in the style of Graceland meets Talking Heads, this is great music.  The band's on tour in Australia, Japan, UK and the US through October.