Category Archives: Music Reviews

Slightly Confused Review: Bob Dylan and Mavis Staples at the IU Auditorium (via Indianapolis Monthly)

Indianapolis Monthly — A longtime Bob Dylan–fan friend of mine recently made this very good point: For all of Dylan’s reputation as an inscrutable recluse, a sly mystery, some mythic brand of unknowable stringy-haired wraith, he’s not that hard to catch.

I don’t have the exact math on this—God save anyone who does—but Dylan is on the road so much that everyone gave up and started calling it the “Never-Ending Tour.” He releases an album maybe every other year; the most recent is a set of three CDs. He’s up to 13 editions of his ample “Bootleg Series,” the latest of which comprises eight discs chronicling his still-not-unweird Christian-flavored “Gospel Tour.” (It accompanies the just-released documentary “Trouble No More,” which features gobs of new footage.) To recap: That’s eight archive CDs for a weird spell that produced two albums that people mostly did not like. And while he’s hardly a cover model or anything, he’s good for a major interview or two every year, which was at one time considered an appropriate amount to hear from famous singers.

Point is, if you’re looking, Dylan is about as hard to find as a bag of Doritos. Armed with this revisionist knowledge, I attended my first Dylan concert in 12 years on Sunday night at the IU Auditorium, and found him … pretty much an inscrutable recluse. The full review at Indianapolis Monthly. 

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This is Definitely Not a Review of ‘Springsteen on Broadway’ (via Backstreets)

Backstreets — We’re bound by decades of theater-media tradition not to review Springsteen on Broadway while it’s in previews, making the October 5 performance I was lucky enough to witness off-limits for setlists, spoilers or critical interpretation.

For instance, I can’t say “Holy (redacted)-ing (redacted)”; I can’t tell you how many times my hair stood on end, how many tears fell, or how many times I had to stuff a Playbill in mouth to stop from screaming “HE’S PLAYING (REDACTED) ON (BLANK)” and getting booted right into Dear Evan Hansen. On the other hand, for hours after after I left the Walter Kerr, the best I could come up with is “Gah,” and I’m pretty sure that doesn’t need to be redacted.

So instead of reviewing a show I can’t review, or listing a setlist I can’t list, I’ll instead share these few key pieces of safe, functional, non-review information for those Backstreets readers who may consider attending Springsteen on Broadway.

Can I bring a backpack?
The nice people at Jujamcyn Theaters, which is a word I cannot say (every time I try, it comes out “calvary”), ask in a pre-show email to “Please avoid bringing large bags or backpacks” and later to “Please refrain from bringing large bags and backpacks.” As you may have determined, these are less “hard restrictions” and more “polite requests.” I brought in a backpack containing a portable charger, a notebook, my wife’s backup shoes and a bag of airline almonds I’d totally forgotten about. But the seats are a tight enough squeeze that Jujamcyn probably has the right idea.

The answers to all your burning questions here. 

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U2, power, nostalgia and the arms of America at Lucas Oil Stadium (via Indianapolis Monthly)

Photo / Tony Valainis

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Indianapolis Monthly — First things first: It is futile to resist the first 45 minutes of the tour marking the 30th anniversary of U2’s The Joshua Tree, a nine-song block of monolithic power so expansive and relentless that it’s profoundly insane to put it at the beginning of a concert. This is a show that schedules “Pride (In the Name of Love)” fourth, because the rest of the set is frankly already too crowded.

On Sunday night at a packed Lucas Oil Stadium—with the roof wide open, because outside it’s America—U2 mobilized the assembled force of its history to deliver two hours of sturdy argument for the best show of the year. The first half nearly did it alone: Unfolding more or less chronologically, it fires to life with the militant bangs that open “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and going through “New Year’s Day,” the glistening “Bad” and the flight-worthy “Pride (In the Name of Love)” before the stars-coming-out riff of “Where the Streets Have No Name” directs things to the task at hand, which, you’ll remember, is the start of an album that then serves up “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “With or Without You,” and “Bullet the Blue Sky.” It’s a good 45 minutes before you really have a chance to mull another drink.

The full review at Indianapolis Monthly.

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Springsteen’s Record-Breaking Night in New Jersey: There is Something Wrong With This Man (via Live Nation TV)

City = busted in half

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Live Nation TV — Something is wrong with Bruce Springsteen. On Tuesday night, to open a three-night series at MetLife Stadium in his home state of New Jersey, he played three hours and 52 minutes–his longest-ever show on U.S. soil and a demonstration of terrifying fitness for a 66-year-old. On Thursday night, at the same stadium, he ambled right out and promptly beat his record by eight minutes. His TWO-DAY-OLD RECORD. If you’re seeing him on Sunday night, bring protein bars.

Whatever your count, Thursday’s show is easily the speediest-feeling four-hour anything I’ve attended. It’s important to note that in the mythological Legends of Springsteen passed down through the generations, the marathon shows he performed on the Darkness and River tours often included an intermission, or a long speech about how he met Clarence, at the very least an encore break. The MetLife shows had zero of these. For the second night in Jersey, Bruce eschewed the full-River construct that was the basis for the River Tour in the first place, but dug up a bunch of the album’s high spots, including “I’m a Rocker,” “Cadillac Ranch,” and “Hungry Heart,” which he sang, naturally, strolling around the floor. Here’s what else he did.

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The Ultimate Indiana Bicentennial Playlist (via Indianapolis Monthly)

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Indianapolis Monthly — Something we discovered putting together a list of iconic albums produced by musicians with Hoosier ties: This place is sick with talent. There’s a singer/songwriter whose name is as synonymous with his home state as anyone’s in music, the over-the-top rock god responsible for arguably the greatest heavy-metal debut album ever, world-class violinists, opera singers and empowered-female pop icons and then, to round out the list, Michael Jackson, Cole Porter and Wes Montgomery. Whittling such a wealth of talent into a single list of essential albums by each artist was an impossible task, so for insight we asked an all-star list of musicians, writers and experts, most with their own Hoosier ties.

See the full playlist here.

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John Mellencamp’s 10 Greatest Indiana Concerts (via Indianapolis Monthly)

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They come from the cities and they come from the smaller towns.

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Indianapolis Monthly — Ask John Mellencamp fans for memories of his best shows in Indiana, and one thing quickly becomes clear: The guy has performed in a lot of places around here. He has played bars and football stadiums, basketball arenas and fancy theaters, Farm Aids and guerrilla gigs. Regardless of venue, though, the shows have rarely disappointed. “As much praise as he’s gotten, I think he’s still underrated as a live performer,” says Anthony DeCurtis, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone who received his Ph.D. in American literature from Indiana University. “I saw him in 1992, and it was just torrid. I don’t think I’d seen John in an arena to that point, and I remember thinking, ‘Boy, he’s not having too much trouble filling up this space.’”

In honor of Mellencamp’s August 4 date at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the final show of a tour that has made a number of Indiana stops already, we compiled a scattered, highly unscientific, and 100 percent debatable list of Mellencamp’s best Hoosier concerts over the past four decades. As you might suspect, the list is culled from minutes and memories, so if yours are different (and they probably are), drop us a line. Here are our choices, presented in chronological order because we can’t really rank them. Well, except for maybe that one.

Read the full list over at Indianapolis Monthly.

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The 10 Best Jimmy Buffett Songs He Probably Won’t Play On Tour

Florida Times-Union — Jimmy Buffett has scored unimaginable bank as king of an empire that encompasses music, restaurants, apparel, shrimp, tequila, casinos and whatever industry puts blowup pools in the back of pickup trucks.

But before he was able to convince untold thousands of concertgoers in suburban amphitheaters and basketball arenas they were actually watching the sun drop in someplace like Tahiti, Buffett really was a struggling, easygoing and fairly well-lubricated storyteller from the Gulf Coast, a guy who came up in the early ’70s singer-songwriter golden age of John Prine, James Taylor, Steve Goodman and countless others.

It’s tougher to find that side of Buffett onstage after decades of sold-out cheeseburger parties, but it’s not impossible: For decades he’s ended his beach blanket blowouts with a solo acoustic number (we call it the Let’s Get The Hell Out Of Here Before These People Get In Their Cars song), his best chance to retune his guitar, rummage around in the song trunk and revisit some of the softer, simpler corners of the catalog. If you’ve gotten your fill of the songs you know by heart, here are a few lost treasures worth digging up.

Read more at Jacksonville.com.

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-N9L3ZXWPA]

Alive Out There: Review — Bruce Springsteen, “London Calling: Live In Hyde Park”

Paste — Bruce Springsteen’s most recent eyebrow-removing live documentary is evidence that the aging process may be purely theoretical. “IS THERE ANYBODY ALIVE OUT THERE?” he shouts all of 12 minutes into the show, throwing down the gauntlet to the behemoth Hard Rock Calling Festival audience with a crazy-eyed boxer’s glare that’s part statement of purpose and part f*#&-you to the AARP Magazine cover. London Calling: Live at Hyde Park then explodes open with its ace in the hole: Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt tearing into the Clash like two scuzzy-looking punks thirsting to prove themselves, which is, of course, profoundly insane: By the time London Calling was shot in June 2009, Springsteen and the E Street Band, most loitering around the parking lot of 60, were firing on all cylinders, inventing more cylinders and then firing on those too, laying waste to festivals and towns huge and small with three-hour sweat-fests highlighted by nightly Stump The Band requests delivered via creative poster boards (the DVD’s: the Young Rascals’ fest-ready “Good Lovin’”).

Read the full review at Paste.

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Review: Magnetic Fields, “69 Love Songs,” or, Magnetic Fields, how do they work?

Paste — Shopping for music reissues is like hitting the sundae buffet on your birthday: It’s one of the few times you are allowed, if not obligated, to put aside your cares about portion size. In the world of repackaged albums, volume is king, sets are super-sized and few demos are considered too scruffy for inclusion. The most bank-breaking reissue of Pearl Jam’s Ten, for example, came with dueling mixes of the album, a live DVD, a vinyl LP, a replica cassette of Vedder’s early demos, some recipes, a coupon for 50 percent off your second pair of shoes, Six Flags tickets and a Don Mattingly rookie card; an apparently sizable audience was once even heard clamoring for 22 outtakes from the Gin Blossoms’ New Miserable Experience.

Magnetic Fields’ spry, sprawling 69 Love Songs album was no small investment in its original proportions, and its three 23-track discs—each loaded end-to-end with near-comprehensive coverage of the highs and horrors of love—cemented Stephin Merritt’s standing as a kind of misanthropic dark knight. And so, while the recently-reissued version is plus-sized—the whole shebang comprised of six vinyl LPs (plus a code to download the remastered MP3s)—this new, limited-run package features no outtakes, no demos, no live cuts, no extra anything. It makes sense, as anything more would bungle the math. Plus, Merritt doesn’t exactly seem like the kind of guy who would throw open his journals. “He made Lou Reed look like Little Orphan Annie,” says author Neil Gaiman in the trailer for the newly released, decade-in-the-making documentary Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields. Read the full review over at Paste Magazine.

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Paste review: “Rock N’ Roll High School” 30th Anniversary Special Edition DVD

Paste — Producer Roger Corman’s Rock ’N’ Roll High School is a teenage lobotomy. It’s an overcaffeinated parable about punk rebellion and the seething drive to maintain one’s countercultural ethos against a long-ingrained totalitarianism that, in 2010, appears approximately as dangerous as a pre-sectionals pep rally. You get where Corman, the B-movie emperor, is going with the whole punk-inflames-the-youth thing somewhere around the 12-second mark, but why bother suppressing such gleeful silliness, especially when it assumes a world where the Ramones are national heroes? Read the full review at Paste.

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