Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Jackpot: Paul Shaffer Does Cher Does O Holy Night

It's just the audio, but boy is it gratifying. Have a listen. Hey, I just found it on video.

Merry Christmas!

Lou Reed at St. Ann's Warehouse: A Review

I'd love to believe you've all been waiting for my review of the Berlin concert (or that there is an "all" out there reading this), but I've been too upset about the Allen Iverson situation to write. Now that he is snuggled safely in Denver, I can finally put my mind to the important work of telling you what I thought. As "Sad Song" came to a close, I considered rushing home to the computer and writing: It Kicked Ass. But now that I've had all this time to think about it, I can't leave it at that. So let's start with before the show began:

When we passed the bar, we heard the music play. And the music was, of course, Lou Reed. It was a song I didn't recognize, but I'm familiar with it now because it was played on a loop for nearly a half hour. There was a scrim in front of the stage onto which was projected various images of waves in what looked like a tropical climate. That's what I always think of when I hear Berlin: the beach. Anyway, the music and imaged looped over and over, and as I got more excited, I almost wished the show would have been already finished so I could start remembering it. Just as I got back to my (assigned) seat after racing to the bathroom for the second time (two beers), the lights went down. Lucky thing, too, because had I been late, I wouldn't have been allowed in the room until after the first song was over. That's what happens when you go see someone Advanced.

Julian Schnabel pretended to be humble as he said a few words about his relationship with the record, dragging his hand through his hair to show how nonchalant he was about the whole thing. We all pretended to care, and he went away. The scrim came up.

I was expecting costumes and other Advanced features, but the only theatrical element to the show was the film projected behind them, which you could barely see. That was nice. Everyone in the band dressed as if they were just playing at their practice space. I've noticed that Lou Reed has embraced a toned down Advancement, style-wise, which makes sense, as Advancement is all about doing what is comfortable for the artist and uncomfortable for everyone else. To the right (stage left) were four horn players, a pianist, and Fernando Saunders, who played regular bass and Advanced bass (stand-up fretless electric). There was also a roving cellist. Upstage in the center back was the drummer, protected by an Advanced clear plastic wall. Reed was front and center, of course. To his left was another bass player (Advanced variety), two back-up singers (one African-American woman--an Advanced necessity--and Antony). Behind them was a youth chorus, who seemed to enjoy themselves. And now the music.

It took the band a couple of songs to get their act together. They were good, but a little ragged. Reed was reading the lyrics off of something from time to time, and it felt a little like watching a favorite actor on SNL reading the cue cards just a little too obviously. But then they all settled down, and he started playing with the lyrics. I'm sure you've heard him do this: He waits to deliver the expected line just to the point where you think he won't be able to squeeze it in, then hastily throws it out there, seeming arhythmically. I know that must frustrate the musicians, but Advanced artists always enjoy playing tricks on the band to keep them on their toes (Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, James Brown, Elvis, etc.). He still can sing when he wants, and in this environment he almost had to because otherwise he would have clashed with the kids' chorus. Of course, "oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, what a feeling" went down instead of up, but it worked nicely.

Signs of Advancement were few, but there were some rockin' solos that might have offended the delicate ears of the Overt. Luckily, that's not us.

Like I said, it took a while for the band to really get going (though I still had chills most of time), things really got going on "How Do You Think It Feels." The band was very precise, and the sound was overwhelming. Actually, I should say a word about "Caroline Says (I)," particularly the chorus. They did an amazing job on the backup vocals, sounding quite a bit like the record. It was fun to close your eyes during this show, by the way. Anyway, the band got more and more precise, perhaps due to the conductor, who at first appeared to be in a lab coat (it was actually just a long coat that matched the chorus). It was during this song that Reed gave his first "I am the master of rock and roll, and if you don't believe listen to this" look.

I don't care for Oh, Jim very much because I'm not Advanced enough I guess. But it won't be hard for you to believe that this seemed to be his favorite song to play. He traded solos with his guitarist, encouraged the backup singers to trade scats with him, and generally just romped around. I enjoyed it, but I didn't like it. But that just made the next number, "Caroline Says (II)" all the better. It was more like a dramatic reading of the song, and it's possible the song nearly brought him to tears (it did me). When I imagined this concert, I dared not hoped it would be as good as this song. And then it got better.

"The Kids" was almost too much to take. This was the song that made me love Berlin several years ago and to hear that bass line live shattered me. Also, to hear him, the actual Lou Reed, singing "I am the water boy" was like hearing Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address. The children crying out (which made me want to go give my baby a hug) was prerecorded, but the out-of-tune flute solo was played live. They reproduced the feel of the album perfectly, only it was even more intense.

On a normal album, "The Kids" might be the high point, but no, no, no, there was "The Bed." I'm starting to run out of steam in my review, so there's no way I can do this justice. But if you like this song and didn't go to the concert, you are very jealous of me right now. The chorus did and absolutely amazing job on this one, mimicking the record with eerie exactitude. Lou Reed looked over at them proudly as their voices floated down over the end of the song and into the introduction of the finale, "Sad Song":

It Kicked Ass.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Rufus Wainwright and Lou Reed: Advancement at Carnegie Hall

I have an Advanced spy who had a spy at Advanced-Aspirant Rufus Wainwright's Christmas concert at Carnegie Hall. Here's the second-hand report, as reported by the third hand, me:

"I'm getting reports that Rufus Wainwright's xmas concert at Carnegie Hall was an advanced fest last night, including a 'White Christmas' duet withLou Reed- after Lou did a feedback guitar accompanied 'Silent Night'.Wow.Oh, he was also wearing slippers...."

Like I said, not liking Christmas is Overt. I think Rufus Wainwright was sort of born into Advancement, but I'll have to think that one over. I wonder if he'll show up in the staging of Berlin? Did I mention I'll be at that show tomorrow?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

More Lou Reed Berlin Talk From the New York Times

There's a lot of overlapping from the article in the previous post, but the Times guy writes better. Here are some highlights:

"Lou Reed refers to it with an understatement that borders on dismissal. 'It was just another one of my albums that didn’t sell,' he said dryly at a West Village cafe recently. But get him talking a little — and a little talk is all one can expect from Lou Reed — and it becomes clear that Berlin, his bleak, Brechtian song cycle from 1973, which he is performing in full for the first time at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn for four nights beginning tomorrow, is a treasured high point in a what has been a lifelong project of pushing at the aesthetic boundaries of rock ’n’ roll.

'It’s a great album,' he said. (He has also called it a masterpiece.) 'I admire it. It’s trying to be real, to apply novelists’ ideas and techniques into a rock format.' He mentioned William S. Burroughs, Hubert Selby Jr., Allen Ginsberg and Raymond Chandler as literary models.
'But it sounds so pretentious saying that.' he added.' It just sounds too B.A. in English. Which I have. So there you go.'”

Doesn't everyone have a BA in English? There's lots more, of course, so read the whole article. One thing though, a friend once asked me if there was an example of a project that an Advanced Artist did after they became Advanced that was rejected at first but then was accepted only after many years. I'd say Berlin falls into that category, though there is a lot of Overtness still in that record. Did I mention I can't wait until Friday?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Lou Reed Talks "Berlin" and Lots of Other Stuff

There's a great article about Lou Reed at that you should check out. It's title: "A Walk on the Wild Side With Lou Reed." My lord that's awesome! Anyway, here are a few bits:

"Over the course of the interview, Reed proves erudite, charming and just a little eccentric. His legendary prickliness surfaces only when he bluntly tells his publicist, at one point, to get lost. In a deep, lazy drawl he chats about everything from rap music ("'it's white kids getting off listening to a fantasy black person with a big gangsta life') to the loss of privacy brought about by technology ('Never save anything. You go to YouTube and you'll find more than you ever thought if you left anything around. That's why now, in studios, I erase everything. They can't release the out-takes because there aren't any'); from auteur director Robert Wilson ('Bob and I are like a hand in a glove, and that's because we're both very aware of Andy, the master. Everybody got something from Mr Warhol') to his lifelong passion, tai chi ('Boy, I wish I could bring [Master Ren, his long-time teacher] when I go to Australia').

The writer suggested that Berlin might have gone over better these days, and here's what Reed had to say:

"I mean with gangsta rap now, with its bitches and whores getting stabbed, and I'll shoot your dick off and run you over with a Mack truck, and even with country and western - I stabbed him in a park because he cheated on me - I don't know, would Berlin make more sense now? I have no idea.

"Still, I was there first, in an uncharted land that no one wanted. I was there and I had it all to myself ... That kind of stuff, what you'd call hardcore, almost made it so I couldn't make other records. You didn't know what to expect from me and that's why I've never been big. I was always on the outside."

There's a lot more, including talk of the staging of Berlin and how much everyone hated it when it came out. Of course, this is the classic example of Advancement because everybody knows how awesome that record is. Also, erasing all your outtakes is a perfect Advanced Irritant move. I really can't wait unitl Friday!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Prince at the Super Bowl

It was only a matter of time:

"Following in the footsteps of such mega-acts as the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney, Prince is set to be the star performer for the Pepsi Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show, airing live on CBS Feb. 4 from Miami's Dolphin Stadium. The big news was unveiled Sunday, during the Eye network's NFL Today and comes three days after His Purpleness grabbed five Grammy nominations for his new release, 3121, including Best R&B Album, Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song."

So when will we see Lou Reed at the Super Bowl? I guess when New York hosts the Super Bowl he'll be part of the show.

A Request for Paul Shaffer's Cher at Christmas

I've been looking forever for a video of Paul Shaffer impersonating Cher singing "O Holy Night." If you can find it, please let me know! (I would settle for the sheet music for "Yeah!".)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Friday, December 08, 2006

Win a Guitar Signed by Bob Dylan

Slate must be looking for traffic becuase they're running a contest for which the grand prize is a guitar signed by Bob Dylan. All you have to do is watch the video for "Thunder on the Mountain" and answer 20 questions. The tiebreaker "calls upon contestants to summon their inner Bobs and craft one four-line, 12-bar blues lyric, to be sung to the tune of 'Thunder on the Mountain.'" I wish I were the judge for that one, as I would imagine the entries would be pretty fascinating.

Questioning the Boss

I love Bruce Springsteen and all, but recently I heard "Born in the USA" and I thought to myself, "I'm not so sure I agree with the Boss's aesthetic decisions." And that goes for almost everything he ever did, except Nebraska and "Born to Run." Now that I look at that written before me, I'm embarrassed that I have such Overt opinions. I guess I'm going to have to bury myself in Bruce until I see the Advanced light. (As a side note, I'm not so sure I agree with Eric Burden's lyrical decisions.)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

David Bowie and Cher Medley

Unspeakably Advanced.

Flaming Lips Get a Street, UK Copyrights, Olivia Newton John: You're the One (million) I Want, Mashups Are Boring Now, Buy the King's Ring

  • The Flaming Lips are going to have a street named after them in their hometown in Oklahoma, which will be confusing because there's already a Flaming Pie street.
  • Paul McCartney and Robbie Williams are trying to get an extension on the British copyright for their music. I wouldn't worry too much about it, Robbie. (JK, RW!)
  • Olivia Newton John is suing over Grease royalties. The accountant in charge of royalties has a good excuse, though: He got chills when multiplying.
  • UK Chancellor Gordon Brown says mashups are the future. Suddenly mashups don't seem so cool anymore.
  • Elvis Presley's wedding ring is up for auction. Do you get the sense that someone in the Presley camp is in charge of figuring out what year they will be able to sell his bones?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Dunkin' Chic

As you may remember, I predicted that Dunkin' Donuts will soon lose the "donuts" part of their name, just like Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC. Well, tonight I saw a commercial tonight celebrating their latte, called the Dunkin' Latte. My guess is that by Thanksgiving, they will call themselves just Dunkin' and use a slogan like "We're more than just donuts" in an attempt to get more of the Starbucks crowd. The question is, will they also use "Sweet Home Alabama" as their theme song? Also, as you might expect, this whole post is an excuse to use the headline "Dunkin' Chic."

All Robert Smith Wants for Christmas Is a Cure for Writer's Block

Robert Smith has writer's block, but don't worry Cure fans:

"Thirty years in the music business is no prevention for writers' block. That is the problem facing the Cure frontman Robert Smith, who is struggling to come up with lyrics to some of the 33 new songs the band has recorded for its 14th studio album. The record's release has already been pushed back to May and the group goes on tour in March, so the pressure is on for the 47-year-old, who does not want to his legacy to be an aging band that gradually fades into the background.'I want them (the words) to mean something, it's not enough that they rhyme,' Smith told Reuters in a recent interview. "I find myself stopping short and thinking I've done this before, and better. 'I've given myself a deadline to finish the words before Christmas.'"

Christmas is an Advanced deadline for Smith to give himself. Doesn't he know that the Cure are supposed to be gloomy, while Christmas is cheerful? One might expect a Halloween deadline, but not Christmas. Overt Cure fans would probably be surprised that Christmas is even a part of his reality, but we all know better than that. And speaking of Christmas, hating it is Overt, as is complaining that Christmas ads appear before Thanksgiving.

Velvet Underground Acetate up for Auction

A while back I wrote about the lucky guy who bought a Velvet Underground acetate (for the Nico album) for 75 cents at a record fair. Well, now he's doing what any music lover would do: He's putting it up for auction. Apparently it includes five tracks that are the same as the album, but "Heroin," "I'm Waiting for the Man," "European Son," and "Venus in Furs" are different. Wouldn't it be great if the different versions were in the style of Rock and Roll Animal? At any rate, the bidding is now at $130,000, so if you want to give it to me for Christmas, you might want to find some people to help you pay for it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Buck Owens and "Japanese" Advancement

A friend of mine wrote me an email that I'd like to share with you:

"So listening to Buck Owens 'made in japan' it occurred to me that one of myfavorite music tropes is having the guitar do a version of 'that japaneseguitar part on the b and e strings' in an otherwise non-eastern sounding song. Similar to the 'knocking' of the snare in a song when the vocals mention a knock on the door, but cooler."

He wondered if besides being cooler than the knocking, whether that guitar part is Advanced. Obviously it depends on the context, but it is definitely one of the few musical tricks that is more Advanced the knocking-on-the-door snare. Plus, the "Eastern" guitar part has the advantage of being potentially offensive. Of course, the most Advanced trick is probably the "hey sexy" whistle guitar in "The Joker," which could be offensive to half the population (though it isn't). I'd like to hear a song with the "Eastern" thing, a door knocking (or would that be a gong?), and a "hey sexy" whistle.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Neil Diamond: Ay, There's the Rubin

Neil Diamond has overcome the coding fiasco that was "12 songs" and is headed back to the studio with Rick Rubin:

"While an album of covers or another album of originals have both been discussed, Rubin says it's too early in the process to know which way it will go. 'It depends on how long the writing process takes,' he says. 'I thought if it's going to take a while to write, it might be fun to do a covers album in between, but we'll see. The material is going to dictate everything.'"

Speaking of covers records, I watched a movie about Bob Dylan's life after his motorcycle crash but before his conversion to Christianity (becoming religious is Advanced), and there was some interesting stuff about the covers record he did. One critic said that it was almost as if Dylan had made it with the intention of disappointing his fans. I loved that, of course. Another critic said that Dylan put together a tour that was inspired by a Neil Diamond concert he saw.

I don't think anyone my age or younger truly understands Neil Diamond, but he sure does write a good reggae song. One other question: When did he become the voice of Christmas?