Indianapolis Monthly — Of all the weird things about “Weird Al” Yankovic, this may be the weirdest: While Coolio, Huey Lewis, and Michael Jackson really only had to worry about sounding like themselves, Weird Al and his criminally under-heralded band have to worry about sounding like The Collective Whole of 35 Years of American Pop Culture, plus Don McLean and Bob Dylan sometimes. There’s being diverse and then there’s being profoundly insane: I’ve never been in a band, but I imagine playing a set list that includes Chamillionaire, Madonna, an iconic grunge song, and a runaway polka is tougher than it looks, much like writing parody in the first place.
One guesses this was part of the drive behind Yankovic’s brilliant “Ridiculously Self-Indulgent Ill-Advised Vanity Tour,” which jam-packed the Palladium on Thursday night despite a preemptive barrage of reminders that humanity’s most iconic musical parodist—a guy whose name is synonymous with basically anything that contains some singing and is funny—would not be doing much of that.
The Loop / Golf Digest — Rejoice, my friends, for though the world is dark and increasing Russian today there is cause for UNABASHED GLEE, because not only has “Weird Al” Yankovic released a new single BUT it’s also a polka medley AND the polka medley is all songs from “Hamilton,” and YES the ricochet-bang sound effect is used right when it should be in “My Shot” and then it’s used LIKE 20 MORE TIMES. God, it’s like my brain had forgotten which synapses turned on the joy.
Fans of “Weird Al” know, of course, that the polka medley is generally one of the three high points of every album, although arguably it might be fourth on Dare to be Stupid, owing entirely to “I Want a New Duck.” (Only two albums lack them: his debut and “Even Worse,” which has “Stuck in a Closet With Vanna White” so it’s OK.) He also occasionally produces political ones. If you dig “The Hamilton Polka,” you might be wise to check out his other polka offerings, which can be found on his accordion-shaped box setSqueeze Box: The Complete Works of “Weird Al” Yankovic.
Indianapolis Monthly — There’s a moment in Jason Isbell shows that comes during the second verse of “Cover Me Up,” a vivid love letter that’s also the sound of a guy falling to the floor and smashing into pieces. Isbell sings of some definitively indefensible booze-fueled infraction, and midway through it the crowd starts cheering, and this pre-emptive cheer builds on itself and builds some more, and by the time Isbell gets to the payoff line about sobering up and swearing off liquor “forever this time,” this cheer sounds like a wave, an instinctive release of support, and understanding, and either the memory of or wish for committing to the kind of all-or-nothing change required to reclaim a life. It’s an incredible few seconds of direct nerve-to-nerve contact, not to a band or a singer, but to a human being at the front of the room. And even if you’ve seen Isbell’s four Indy-market shows in the past three-and-a-half years, it still wields the power to remind you of his gifts as a writer while also, at the same time, taking your hair and physically blowing it toward the back of your head. Actual, 100 percent physically. I am pretty sure that after “Cover Me Up,” I spent the rest of the night looking like Doctor Who.
Indianapolis Monthly — Gregory Porter’s rich, sturdy baritone is filed under jazz in large part because singers have to be called something; those “genre” fields don’t fill themselves out, people.
It’s true that Porter won exceedingly deserved jazz vocal Grammys for 2017’s Take Me to the Alleyand 2014’s Liquid Spirit (and odds are pretty good on a third for his new tribute album, Nat “King” Cole and Me), all of which arrived via Blue Note. But while his big, booming voice is worthy of gold, filing it under jazz leaves out more than it lets in. Porter wields command over a vast range of genre fields, as he proved in a gleaming and diverse Saturday night set at the Palladium: Rare is the performer who can conjure Cole’s ghost, lead his own band through a steam-train version of “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” and close by gorgeously damning an industry complicit in “musical genocide” all in a baritone that booms as much as it comforts.
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.
Backstreets — We’re bound by decades of theater-media tradition not to review Springsteenon 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They come from the cities and they come from the smaller towns.
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.
Writer: GQ, Men’s Health,
the Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Indianapolis Monthly, Golf Digest, Vice, BruceSpringsteen.net,
the Indy 500, Fatherly, etc. Proud owner of a Bruce-related Guinness World Record. Even longer bio/clips.