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Happy 75th Birthday Bob Dylan

The greatest American songwriter turned 75 today. It’s refreshing to be celebrating a legendary artist for something other than their death in 2016. So far it’s been a brutal year for the music industry, and not taking the time to acknowledge and thank Bob Dylan for everything he has accomplished and contributed to the world would be a huge oversight by us. With that said, Happy Birthday to the one and only Bob Dylan. Here’s a few of our favorite performances.

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#Throwback Thursday – Cranberries – Dreaming My Dreams

As you might have seen here, this year former Smiths bassist Andy Rourke and the Cranberries’ singer Dolores O’Riordan teamed up for a new band called D.A.R.K. Although this pairing seems like it would lead to some interesting tunes, D.A.R.K. for the most part, did not deliver anything that great.

But upon hearing Dolores’ voice again it made me think back to how great The Cranberries first two albums were. Zombie, Linger, Ode to my Family were just some of the great tunes from those albums. My personal favorite was Dreaming My Dreams. The Cranberries unlike many other Irish or Brit acts, didn’t hide their accents at all. The Irishness of The Cranberries seeped through all their songs. Dolores O’Riordan’s voice is absolutely magical. She took all her Irish charm and rage, infused it with great melodies and created one of the most influential Irish bands of all time. She also had the look of a local NYC Irish bartender in the 90’s, which only led to her charm. As the Irish say, fair play to them…here are The Cranberries.

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Kula Shaker – Concert Review – Edinburgh Liquid Rooms – May 15, 2016

Grateful When You’re (Un)Dead – The Spectacular Rebirth of Kula Shaker

Psychedelic rockers Kula Shaker have a timeless quality about them so they have aged better than many of the Britpop era bands now doing their 20th anniversary testimonials.

Even in the 90s they were a throwback to the 60s so they’ve always sounded a bit other-worldly, making them a quirky cult band in the years since their smash hit debut K.

They clearly don’t give a shit – and if you have been ignoring Kula Shaker over the years then, boy, have you been missing out.

Their intimate gig at Edinburgh’s Liquid Rooms was the best show I have seen in at least a year and probably up there with my greatest gigs of all time.

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Every song was a crowd pleaser, even their lesser known mid-career material, and there wasn’t a single filler or minute’s downtime to buy a pint without the risk of missing something spectacular.

In the soft stage lights frontman Crispian Mills doesn’t look a day older than his 90s heyday, and in the harsher spotlight he looks a bit like the ageing Studio 54 era Andy Warhol, with his floppy blonde locks, sparkly suit and cravat.

Kula Shaker are currently promoting their excellent new album K2.0, a conscious tribute to their double-platinum selling debut album K, but such is the strength of their extended back catalogue that they only dipped into it.

Promo single Infinite Sun already ranks among their top tunes but it was robbed of some of its power by being sandwiched mid-set, clearly not ready to be promoted to the encore slot it may one day enjoy.

They opened in Edinburgh with Sound of Drums from their gold-selling second album Peasants, Pigs and Astronauts, with its feelgood chorus setting the tone for the rest of the gig.

I recall thinking that Kula Shaker had rather jumped the shark with PP&A , particularly its second single Mystical Machine Gun with its wacky lyrics that were way out there even by their standards: “You’re a wizard in a blizzard…you walked through a fire with a ten headed lion.”

However, it sounded absolutely epic live. Mills is a virtuoso guitar player, twisting old Hendrix and Floyd riffs with eastern scales and flourishes to turn them into something unique – or at least rarely heard since the days of Sgt Pepper and His Satanic Majesty’s Request.

They launched into K’s hippyish double header Grateful When You’re Dead/Jerry Was There three songs in, while the album’s celebration of life on the road 303 was the song of the night – leaving my new Kula convert companions open mouthed that this band should be scratching around in relative obscurity in the roughly three-quarters full 650 capacity Liquid Room.

Mills has showbiz running through his veins as the grandson of British thespian Sir John Mills and son of former child star Hayley Mills, so he’s probably not short of a few bob despite his band’s niche appeal and soldiers on for the love of rock’n’roll rather than a need to meet mortgage or alimony payments (the rumoured impetus behind The Stone Roses’ precarious return).

However, as the Dylan-esque encore 33 Crows demonstrates they’re no stranger to the odd broken relationship.

Kula Shaker have had a lot of requests for this new song on their current tour, Mills reveals, suggesting many identify with its spiteful warning to women who dump their men to take up with losers with perhaps the best lyrics I have heard all year:

“Be careful that you don’t go blow his brain out in the end/You might end up with no-one to call a friend/Unless they’re canine, or equine.”

It almost tops 303’s closing line: “I think I’ll grow myself a big ol’ hairy moustache.”

The rest of the encore was hypnotic, opening with an extended Tattva and going straight into Hush, their twist on the rock classic which is arguably better than Deep Purple’s acclaimed version.
Harry Broadbent bashed out the hook on his ornate Hammond organ, looking like his mum’s old sideboard in its sturdy wooden case, having taken over from founder member Jay Darlington who left in 1999 for an uncredited but undoubtedly better remunerated role as an Oasis sideman.

The band’s biggest hit Hey Dude was followed by Great Hosannah, and for their curtain call the crowd belted out word-perfect Sanskrit from eastern mantra Govinda like it was the ‘na na na’ of Hey Jude.

K2.0 is already their best-selling album since PP&A suggesting Kula Shaker is enjoying a bit of a renassance.

They built their reputation with a series of blistering festival shows in the mid-90s, and with festival season shortly upon us they could be returning to bigger halls very soon.

Setlist:

Sound Of Drums

Hurry On Sundown

Grateful When You’re Dead

Jerry Was There

Let Love B (With U)

Temple Of The Everlasting Light

Infinite Sun

Shower Your Love

303

Oh Mary

Mountain Lifter

Peter Pan RIP

Ophelia

Smart Dogs

Mystical Machine Gun

108 Battles (Of The Mind)

Tattva

Hush

33 Crows

Hey Dude

Great Hosannah

Govinda

dd ee ff

 

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The Stone Roses – All For One – Review

Well, it’s been 23 years in the making and All For One – The Stone Roses’ first output of the 21st Century – is…respectable but not exceptional.

Unsurprisingly, it’s not a patch on anything on the debut album, but then again there isn’t much under the sun that stands up to the 11 tracks often touted as the greatest album of all time (in Britain, anyway).

It’s closer in spirit to One Love, the amiable but unaccomplished follow up to Fools Gold that marked the end of their heady first coming, with perhaps a touch of psychedelic mid-career Oasis – the band that would ultimately usurp but never surpass the Roses (I won’t be so cruel to compare it to Beady Eye, but there is a shade of the lesser Gallagher in there, too).

The opening riff takes the Roses back to the simpler days of Sally Cinnamon, a single guitar with just a touch of overdrive in contrast to the overdubbed swamp rock of Love Spreads or Driving South.

This bodes well for future releases if this is a proper comeback and not just a feelgood novelty single. Maybe their next song will be the long-awaited return to the indie-dance crossovers of Elephant Stone and Fools Gold.

The intro also bares a resemblance to Round The Universe from Squire’s much derided Seahorses album – an ominous portent for some, perhaps, but I still retain a fondness for Do It Yourself despite its often daft lyrics (it was produced by the great Tony Visconte, after all).

And while we’re on the subject of daft lyrics, All For One ain’t Shakespeare (or even Dumas). It’s basically the same simple loved-up platitudes repeated over again, some of which have unfortunately been cribbed from Bryan Adams’ cheesy trio with Rod Stewart and Sting for The Three Musketeers soundtrack.

But it isn’t the heart wrenching introspection of Second Coming either, suggesting the band are in a happier place third time round. 

All For One does get interesting around the two minute mark though, with a jaunty phased drum break and Squire-by-numbers guitar solo ripped straight from his well worn Jimmy Page songbook.

So, overall it’s a fairly harmless tribute to the Roses in all their guises, but if you want a better study in how to resurrect your psychedelic heyday in style check out Kula Shakers new album K2 or better still go see them on their UK tour (including Edinburgh on Sunday).

 

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#Throwback Thursday -NBA Superstars

With the NBA playoffs in full swing, we throw it back to the best sports video ever produced, NBA Superstars. Produced in the late 80’s it was the original YouTube highlight reel set to music.

This was by far the most difficult video to rent at the video store back in the day. I remember running to the sports section of the video rental store on a Friday night, only to see The ’86 Mets Year in Review or old WrestleMania’s tapes. This frustration ultimately led to everyone I knew, including myself, owning NBA Superstars. I remember watching this video hundreds of times, mimicking each players signature moves on my Nerf hoop.

Before the instant access internet world we live in today, NBA Superstars gave you all you needed as a young sports fan. The combination of slick editing with music that matched each players style of play or character, was groundbreaking. The only other sports video set to music at that time was NFL films but that was different. This spoke to a younger generation and really paved the way for And1 and the Jock Jam revolution. NBA Superstars II somehow didn’t catch the perfection the first video had. The second video missed on the way the highlights we edited and the song selections are terrible. Unfortunately the second video, like many sequels, couldn’t hold a candle to the original.

Here is our Top 5 from NBA Superstars. Ranking is based on song plus highlights plus editing.

5. Dominique Wilkins  – Yanni “Looking Glass”

4. Michael Jordan – Berlin “Take My Breath Away”

3. Charles Barkley – Scandal “The Warrior”

2. Magic Johnson – Janet Jackson “Control”

1. Larry Bird – John Mellencamp “Small Town”

Bonus Full Video

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Pearl Jam – Concert Review – Madison Square Garden – May 2, 2016

Eddie Vedder announced early in the night that their last night at Madison Square Garden would be a “Garden Party” and what a party it turned out to be. The crowd comprised of mostly 30 and 40 year olds were more than willingly to help Eddie Vedder and the rest of Pearl Jam do their collective best to rip the roof off of MSG.

Pearl Jam through all their ups and downs over the past 26 years, have continued to provide the type of live show that fans talk about their whole lives. Unlike many bands that stick to a dedicated tour set list, every night for Pearl Jam fans are a different mix of classic fan favorites, new material, rarities, and spirited covers. This would be the 36th time Pearl Jam performed in NYC (10th at MSG) and they seemed determined to make this night extra special.

As Pearl Jam has aged, so has their crowd. Unlike in the 90’s when PJ concert conversations might be made up of who’s better Nirvana or Pearl Jam; conversations now are about children, jobs, and receding hairlines. “Hey honey, did you bring my earplugs?” could be overheard in our section. Although times have changed, when PJ plays songs from their older catalog, it was as if many in the crowd were instantly transported back to High School or College when music was the most important thing in their lives. Throughout the night PJ would give everyone an opportunity to remember when they first learned the lyrics to Jeremy (Ohhh, it’s Jeremy spoke in class today, not Jeremy spoke, yes he did) or bought their first Pearl Jam CD at Tower Records, Sam Goody’s, The Wiz or The Wall. Pearl Jam is one of the few bands that have endured from the 90’s and luckily for us, they seem to be getting even better with age (just like the crowd..wink,wink).

Pearl Jam took the stage with all the house lights on to thunderous applause from the second sold out night at Madison Square Garden.  The band took their familiar spots on stage as Eddie performed his ritual of laying down his notebook at the front of the stage. The night kicked off with the Vitalogy classic Corduroy.  As Matt Cameron slammed down the opening drum beats, Mike McCready, Eddie, and Stone Gossard ripped into the opening guitar riffs that made the standing room floor seem to explode in a controlled riot. Jeff Ament stood legs wide apart as he slapped the bass giving Corduroy its heavy beat.  Eddie raged from the initial line, the appropriate “The waiting drove me mad, your finally here and I’m a mess!”. Throughout the song Mike McCready wandered his side of the stage chucking guitar picks and playing up the crowd. The crowd would also be tested early to see if they were ready for one of the many crowd participation moments. “Everything has chains, absolutely nothings changed!!!”. The crowd nailed it and away we went.

The next 3 songs were just as intense and full of energy as Corduroy. Pearl Jam kept the show at full throttle and thrashed through Mind Your Manners, Once and Animal. It seemed after Animal the crowd were collectively trying to catch their breath from the blistering start. Mike McCready offered a quick reprise as he played the amazing guitar intro to Given To Fly, but it was only a quick rest before the crowd was rocking and exploding to

A wave came crashing like a fist to the jaw

Delivered him wings “Hey look at me now”

Arms wide open with the sea as his floor

Oh power oh

He’s..flying…Whole…High.. wide, oh

It was quite clear from this start, tonight was going to be a great show.

Eddie then took to the mic to deliver on his Garden Party promise as he introduced recently inducted Rock n Roll Hall of Famers, Rick Nielsen & Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick. Rick and Tom joined Pearl Jam in a great rendition of Surrender. The chorus hit home with much of the crowd “Mommy’s alright, Daddy’s alright….They just seem a little weird…..Surrender, Surrender But don’t give yourself away!!”

After a few selfies by Rick Nielsen, Cheap Trick quickly exited and Pearl Jam decided to get more acquainted with the audience when they went in to Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town. The entire crowd hugged and swayed as they belted out the entire song. For the first time Pearl Jam would be overtaken by the crowd.

The band continued to play crowd favorite after crowd favorite Nothingman, Betterman, Garden and Even Flow. It was during Even Flow that Mike McCready showed why he is one of the most talented guitarists alive. McCready who recently celebrated his 50th birthday (to join most of the band) shows no sign of slowing down. Throughout the night McCready played extended solos, not only traditionally but also behind his head, behind his back, and behind his back while walking/running through the arena. We all know Mike McCready is a tremendous guitarist but when you see up close and personal exactly what he can do, it really leaves you awe struck.

A touching moment came when Eddie Vedder dedicated Sirens to Lance Corporal Tom Rorke who tragically died in a car accident in tiny Breezy Point Queens last summer. Eddie acknowledged his friends and family in the crowd and delivered a heartfelt rendition of the song. It’s moments like this that make being a Pearl Jam fan different than being a fan of almost any other band. Whether it be song requests by fans or stories that reach the band, they treat their fans with the utmost respect and show genuine love to all the fans that have supported them throughout the years. The Pearl Jam 10 Fan Club gets most of the fan requests and stories to the band and is a amazing group. Unlike many fan clubs, Pearl Jam interacts constantly with the fan club, and it gives you the sense that you are part of their very large extended family. After ripping off a few more monster hits Jeremy and Do The Evolution, Pearl Jam ended their opening set.

After a quick break Eddie returned solo to play an acoustic cover of The Beatles, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away. The acoustic cover section is always great and this was an excellent choice for the night. Before the song Eddie joked with the crowd saying “we aren’t leaving yet since we only have to drive to Canada. New York or Canada? Do they even have internet there yet.”

The 1st encore was mostly reserved compared to the opening set and saw some of the crowd realize MSG actually had seats. After a few slower tunes PJ kicked it in to high gear with State of Love and Trust and Porch, ending the 1st encore.

The second encore would start with Pearl Jam acknowledging the crowd to the back of the stage and playing Last Kiss directly to them. Not a favorite of mine, but I was definitely in the minority.

Following Last Kiss, Eddie addressed the crowd for a bit. For most of the night, Eddie had been reserved in his dealings with the crowd; he was letting the music speak for him. That changed when Eddie started talking about the amount of information we are subject to in the modern age as compared to the 17th century and how all of that information can wear you down. “So if you’re every feeling crazy or overwhelmed or insignificant or frustrated or beaten down, there’s a fucking reason,” Vedder said “It’s impossible to keep up. There’s a lot of tragedy in the world; we just didn’t used to hear about all of it”. He continued and spoke about politicians spewing bullshit and promoting fear. Eddie then suggested that the networks like to make sure that elections go “all seven games” for ratings. He then declared that Bernie Sanders might be the best candidate but the press has a business to run. The crowd reaction to the mentioning of Bernie Sanders was hilarious. Half the crowd cheered while half booed. Eddie laughed to the reaction and yelled “Well that’s a vote!”.

Eddie then introduced the next song as one of the best ever that describes that feeling of being overwhelmed by all the bad news and fear mongering in the world. As they began playing, most had no idea what they were playing. After the first verse the crowd roared as Sting sauntered on to the stage. He took to the mic and sang the rest of Driven to Tears. The Garden Party was in full swing and seeing Sting rock out with Pearl Jam was a great moment.

It was clear as 11pm approached the night was quickly drawing to a close. After two and half hours both Pearl Jam and the crowd were still rearing to go. To close out the night PJ ripped in to the quintessential grunge rock anthem Alive. There are few songs that give me chills when played live, this song is one of them. Screaming with 20,000 plus that “We’re all Alive!!!” is one of the greatest concert experiences you can participate in. McCready absolutely destroyed the solos while the crowd chanted and fist pumped “hey” throughout. It truly is one of the best live songs you will ever see performed. Pearl Jam followed Alive with an amazing cover of Baba O’Reily by The Who. Eddie channeled his inner Pete Townshend windmilling on his guitar and jumping all over the stage.

To cap the night Pearl Jam ended with Yellow Ledbetter. Mike McCready would shine one more time and with all the house lights on, the crowd gave one last push towards the end of the night. “I don’t wanna staaaa-yyyy!!!”. As the band thanked the crowd, McCready put a punctuation on the night by playing The Star Spangled Banner.

And so ended Pearl Jam’s two night run at the World’s Most Famous Arena. As the crowd spilled out onto the streets few cared about work or family obligations, most were still riding the emotional wave from seeing the best Rock Band in the world. With a nod to the past and hope for the future, Pearl Jam delivered on their promise of a Garden Party. For 3 hours everyone in that arena was part of something special. A true living community made up of music, memories, love and positive vibes. If you could bottle that up and spread it around the rest of the world, what a perfect world it would be. I better stop here since it sounds like Eddie got me drunk on the Pearl Jam change the world Kool Aid. Thanks again to Pearl Jam and all their fans for making another night I will never forget. As with the end of every Pearl Jam tour there is only one question, “When are they coming back???”

Set list:

Corduroy

Mind Your Manners

Once

Animal

Given to Fly

Surrender (Cheap Trick cover) (with Rick Nielsen & Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick)

Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town

Nothingman

Leatherman

Better Man

Garden

Even Flow

Sirens (dedicated to Lance Corporal Tom Rorke)

Deep

Jeremy

Leash

Do the Evolution

Encore:

You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (The Beatles cover) (Eddie on solo acoustic guitar)

All or None

Pendulum

Present Tense

Breath

State of Love and Trust

Porch

Encore 2:

Last Kiss (Wayne Cochran cover)

Driven to Tears (The Police cover) (with Sting)

Lightning Bolt

Sonic Reducer (Dead Boys cover)

Alive

Baba O’Riley (The Who cover)

Yellow Ledbetter

The Star-Spangled Banner

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