Tag Archives: review

Review: Foo Fighters in Indianapolis, the Best Dad-Rock Band on Planet Earth

This man loves Honda Odysseys more than I do.

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Indy Monthly — Dave Grohl and company put on the best dad-rock show on planet Earth, full stop, and if this sentence reads negative to you, please put down our website and get back to, I don’t know, standing in front of national parks taking pictures of your face or whatever you people do, for it is intended as the highest of compliments.

Where to start about Thursday evening’s show by Foo Fighters, who, after 23 (!!!)(!) years, are officially a band of astonishing stability: 22 songs, two-and-a-half-hours, “Everlong,” Dave Grohl’s running gag about the pure dependability of Honda Odysseys (accurate), 95 singalongs, two Queen covers, and one my-hand-to-God mashup of “Imagine” and Van Halen’s “Jump” that would bring “Weird Al” Yankovic to actual tears? In his endless drive to maintain peak crowd enjoyment, Grohl says “Okey dokey artichokey,” encourages us parents to sing along, gets giddy about the moon, and pretends to be paternally disappointed in Chris Shiflett’s guitar solo. The man even brings his seventh-grade daughter up to sing background vocals, for God’s sake, that is PARENTING.

More on the band’s Noblesville stop at Indianapolis Monthly.

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Review: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit Need to Quickly Exit the Murat Please (via Indianapolis Monthly)

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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.

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Give This Man Some More Awards: A Review of Gregory Porter at the Palladium (Indianapolis Monthly)

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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.

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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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The Steel Horse Archives: Tesla, “Love Song” (1989)

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This record was Tesla's last to not include at least 9 classic-rock covers.

PopDose — Part Two of The Steel Horse Archives, featuring Tesla, whose important-looking 1989 morality play “The Great Radio Controversy” is pictured. Go to PopDose at once for some gorgeous Renaissance-era acoustic guitar magic and mp3s that you can quietly download without having to admit it.


Review: Bruce Springsteen burns down Bonnaroo — for the Official Site (TM)

saddler_bonnaroobrucespringsteen.net (Tour Notes) — Even setting aside the Tennessee hot, the sprawling carnival-world landscape, and the frequent need to avoid people who are hula-hooping where you need to be walking, it’s safe to say Bruce Springsteen has never played an environment like the one he burned down Saturday night at Bonnaroo. The night was jammed full of Bruce-time idiosyncrasies: it was only the band’s second-ever festival date (after Pinkpop), and it unfolded not in the relative safety of an arena but on a lush, pastoral and almost entirely inaccessible farm that 48 hours prior had been prolifically drenched by what amounted to a freak one-night hurricane season (and spent all of Friday being dried out by a sultry sun that seared the grounds and turned the place into a wonderland for fans of the smell of fast-drying mud).

Read the full review at brucespringsteen.net (over in the Tour Notes section).

• Phish (with Bruce Springsteen) — Glory Days.mp3


Billboard @ Bonnaroo 2009: 10 Must-See Bands Itinerary

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Billboard — Thanks to a deep love of live music, being outdoors, the symptoms of heatstroke, sweaty insomnia, flimsy sandals and people who are baked out of their minds and dancing where I would like to be walking, I’ll be covering Bonnaroo this weekend (with the extremely talented and personable Troy Carpener) for the good folks at Billboard.com, making us one of a very select few people to be covering this festival for The Internet.

We’ll be doing daily recaps, blogs, video interviews, etc. etc. social media multimedia one-man mobile uplink unit-ing all weekend long at Billboard’s Bonnaroo Page.

And of course we’ll be tweeting Bonnaroo, one of those sentences I cannot explain to my Dad no matter how long I talk, so point your personal World Wide Internet reading machine device to twitter.com/billboarddotcom and laugh laugh laugh when the effects of the heat render us almost entirely incomprehensible.

First up, our brief and ragingly incomplete 10 Must-See Bands Itinerary can be found here.


Review: Guns N’ Roses, “Chinese Democracy” (No, really)

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Popdose — Unless you spent a lot of time in the company of William Shatner, “Chinese Democracy” will likely be one of the most ridiculous audio recordings you ever come across. It is sprawling and stupid and ludicrous and hilarious and will make you shoot milk out of your nose and cringe and it is not very good and sometimes extremely terrible, and just when you think things cannot possibly get any more extraordinarily strange, that’s when Axl Rose drops the MLK sample on you.

Originally slated for release in 1948, “Chinese Democracy” comes out Sunday exclusively for people shopping for Black Friday-sale plasmas at Best Buy, a wise promotional stunt and kind of an all-in proposition — if putting this record out this week doesn’t create interest or move units, nothing will. Because one thing is sure: The songs won’t sell it. Read the full review via the good people at PopDose.


Live review: Springsteen’s “Magic” in the night

PopMatters — If The Rising was Bruce Springsteen’s soaring, spiritual attempt at making sense of whatever parts of 9/11 one could make sense of—its title track, you’ll remember, found a heroic firefighter ascending a burning building with “spirits above and behind (him)”—his newest record, Magic, is the crashing aftermath, a darkened, defiant survey of the emotional and political wreckage since that dark day. Its 12 songs are laden with alienation, disappointment, and evaporated hope. These themes certainly aren’t new to Bruce’s notebook, but it’s still something to hear such themes so prevalent, so front and center. In a few cases, Magic takes Springsteenian lyrical chestnuts and turns them on their disenfranchised ears: the girl in the Motown/boppy “Livin’ in the Future” sways into town on high heels that sound like the clicks of pistol, while the “flag flyin’ over the courthouse” in “Long Walk Home” inspires not hope or redemption but a subtle national sense of remorse for crimes committed in the names of people who never wanted anything to do with them.

These are not easy tales to spin to a crowd that is used to leaving your live show feeling as though the world was a searingly hopeful beacon of justice, rainbows, truth, and fresh-baked oatmeal cookies. But maybe the magic-est thing about Springsteen’s Magic show is that, even in a slightly abbreviated and grayer form, Springsteen maintains the uncanny and increasingly unbelievable ability to identify hope in a daily rain of chaos.

Springsteen is 58 years old right now, the first of many reasons that the Magic tour shouldn’t be anywhere near as vibrant and relevant as it is. Other obstacles include, but are not limited to, perceptions that: he’s overly preachy and political, his band is too old (Clarence is 65!), and he’s too rich to identify with the common man. And given his own superlative, impossible history, going out and putting on simply a “good” show might not be enough for a fan base that’s come to rightly expect a regular stream of “greatness.”

Lucky for us, there seems to be something about these challenges that’s making him dig deeper. Dark or not, alienating or not, there’s never a moment in the two hour-plus show where you think that Springsteen—all six decades of him—might not be able to pull this off.

None of this is to say that there aren’t the usual, scorching moments of cathartic release: the D.C. show’s opening salvo of “Radio Nowhere”, “No Surrender”, and “Lonesome Day” roared with a vengeance; the first set closed, if you can call it that, with “Badlands”. This show also found Springsteen leaving time for a stomping, galvanic “Working on the Highway” (complete with Elvis poses), as well as the one-two punch of the new, better-on-stage “I’ll Work for Your Love” and “Tunnel of Love”—the later of which sounds more ‘80s than ever and closed with an absolutely bonkers solo from Nils Lofgren.

Elsewhere, “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” shimmered and waved. Aside from that great chorus, it’s one of a few songs on the new record that find Bruce—grudgingly, one imagines—copping to his age: they might pass him by now, but Springsteen allows himself a twinkle to the Sandys and Rosalitas anyway. (For the setlist hawks, this night found Springsteen and band killing an audibled “Growin’ Up” and taking it directly into a roaring “Kitty’s Back”—both songs going on 35 years old).

But for the most part, there’s more darkness on the edge of the Magic show than any tour before it. In the context of such alienation—especially in the D.C. setting, which Springsteen acknowledged with the hot-cha zinger, “I’m so glad to be in your wicked, I mean beautiful, city tonight!”—“No Surrender” became a fierce challenge (the “wide open country in our eyes” seemed a lot more distant). “Reason To Believe”, meanwhile, was rebuilt as a dust-spitting Western rocker in the vein of “La Grange” and “Radio Nowhere”. The tune opened with a war cry (“Is there anybody alive out there?”, which Bruce has been stage-pattering since the ‘70s) that was part call to arms, part indictment—a line that can kick off a big rock show while slyly wondering what, exactly, in the hell have we let happen around here.

Springsteen has said that the hook, the whole turning point of the show happens near the end of the first set, when the cathartic, hopeful-against-odds “The Rising” gives way to “Last to Die”, the new record’s most direct indictment of the war. It’s made more potent when one realizes that the title character, whoever it is, may not have enlisted yet (the song’s based on a speech by John Kerry, no less). When that moment comes, it’s a killer: the shift, the tension, the tone, are like a kick to the stomach. Out of the “li li li”s of “The Rising” comes a black highway, an aimless wander and the question of who’ll be “the last to die for a mistake.”

That’s Springsteen’s challenge this time out: serving the bitter pills of “Last to Die” and “Devil’s Arcade” (given a stern, hammering, Max Weinberg-heavy reading in honor of Veterans’ Day) next to the fizzy release of “She’s the One” and the roaring-as-ever “Night”. The final song of the evening, “American Land”, is a Celtic-punk holdover from his Seeger Sessions experiment. It turned the GA section of the pit into a rubber-floored free-for-all, lobbing these lyrics at the lobbyists and lawmakers in the audience: “The hands that build the country we’re always trying to keep out.”

No one is more hip to the inability of American audiences to read between the lines than Springsteen—these are the people that wanted to use “Born in the USA” to sell pickup trucks, and if anyone can drag Pat Buchanan out of his crypt maybe he could explain why he once used the song as entrance music—but that Springsteen is as invested in such seemingly aging ideals is maybe the biggest reason he’s still doing all this. Such is the assignment that Springsteen has given himself: to keep arguing for the points and people he’s spent nearly four decades arguing for, to allow just the briefest glimpse of nostalgia (via “Born to Run”, of course, and a revved-up “Dancing in the Dark”), to allow more for age and experience. He’s there to to cast light on the horrors of a government run amok, and to make people leave a concert thinking that redemption is not only possible, but is possible by tomorrow morning.


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