Tag Archives: Crowded House

Elvis (Costello) Is King

As I walk through
this wicked world
searching for light in the darkness of insanity
I ask myself
is all hope gone?
Is there only pain and hatred and misery?
And each time I feel like this inside, there’s one thing I wanna know
What’s so funny about peace love and understanding?

Nick Lowe wrote it, and in the 1970s, to boot. But it’s Elvis’ song. And it should be our goddamned National Anthem.

My friend Bill has seen Elvis Costello live about twenty times over the years. After witnessing his three-hour performance at Rochester’s Jazz Festival (yes, I know…) earlier this month, he proclaimed it the finest show he had ever seen Elvis perform…ever. I do not take comments like that from Bill lightly; he’s not prone to hyperbole.

I missed that show; by the time I was available to get seats there were a few nosebleeders left for $95 (plus Ticketbastard charges), and $250 seemed a bit steep. Fortunately I discovered that two short weeks later he was performing in a beautiful outdoor setting at the Buffalo Harbor…for ten dollars. That’s like time-travel prices, folks! It’s also a magnificent place to see a show; I saw Crowded House there last summer.

There were two openers as the sun set over the water. A game Mark Norris and the Backpeddlers did their best and sported some catchy songs, albeit monitor troubles were likely the cause of some flat vocals. Then Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers came on – great band instrumentally, great concept and even very entertaining on occasion…like when lead singer Shilpa didn’t howl like a banshee impaled on a fiery pole.

With curfew, I knew Elvis now had only two hours, not three. But damned if he didn’t hit the stage en fuegofive straight classics without a breath between them – and wrung every second of time for all it was worth without so much as a momentary lapse of energy. I wish every young band who think they are the shit could watch and learn how to create, sustain and leverage momentum. This was a master class.

The band was phenomenal. Consider that had Bruce Thomas not left the fold for personal reasons, this was the same quartet that changed lives thirty-five years ago. But Davey Faragher – veteran of Cracker, John Hiatt and others – has been the perfect foil for Elvis both musically and vocally for years. And while the other two might not sit atop people’s lists of best drummer and best keyboard player, I cannot think of anyone else manning those chairs better.

Pete Thomas is still a dynamo of hands and feet, as steadily adept and pulsating as he was when The Attractions were at their peak. Unassuming but rock solid, he and Faragher are telepathic.

And Steve Nieve – is that the greatest rock’n’roll name ever? Not only was his mad scientist act on banks of keyboards as good as ever, but I have never seen anyone play a theremin with such impeccable pitch and control.

Elvis is no spring chicken, but someone forgot to tell him. His vocals were superb, whether artfully crooning “Shipbuilding” or spitting out the fast paced venom of “Mystery Dance” and “Radio Radio“. He paced the stage restlessly, played guitar god whenever the Gibsons were strapped around his neck, and damned if he didn’t do a little dancing, too.

The set list tilted heavily to the early years, but some of the obvious crowd-pleasers (“Oliver’s Army”, “No Action“) were skipped in favor of deeper dives like “Green Shirt” and “Clubland“. He even threw in spirited covers of  “Heart Of The City” and “Substitute” pleasing the old guard among us.

He did finally pull out “Alison“, and as couples hugged and swayed and the crowd sang along I couldn’t help wondering if he felt compelled to play it just because it was such a touchstone. But as he headed for the home stretch, the band’s volume ebbed and flowed as he stepped to the microphone and started to weave in other artist’s lyrics as if they were simply bonus verses. Hank Williams. Jimi Hendrix. Smokey Robinson. Not covering the songs, mind you – weaving them into his own melody and chord changes, and each fit like hand in glove. With dignity and subtlety the man was giving a goddamned rock history lesson from the pulpit, and we were renewed in our faith.

And as he wailed about infidelity to draw the song to its conclusion, and thousands of people already on their feet tried to stand even taller in appreciation, he lit off the cherrybomb that has become his signature song, and we were all one explosive beacon in one of rock’s finest moments.

So where are the strong?
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony, sweet harmony?

Right here, Elvis. Forever and always.

Elvis Costello

The Buffalo set list will eventually be here.

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Mixtape: She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not

 Mixtape time again!

This one, She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not – was from my monthly mixtape swaps back in 1997. Here’s what I wrote back then as an introduction:

Love comes in spurts, says Richard Hell. Love comes in cycles, sez me. The wonder of a crush, the rush of recognition that affection is mutual, the delicate jab and parry of getting to know someone, that first kiss, the first mistake, the uneasy first fight, the first break up (and the wonderful first make-up), the second mistake and third, the wandering eye, being taken for granted, being misunderstood, falling apart, getting sad, getting bitter, getting haunted, that smile-on-the-surface but acid-in-your-stomach feeling of seeing them with someone else, the greens and blues, the depression, the worthlessness and then just when you think you’ll jump…that new person who sends a thousand volts through your spine and into your heart. Another chance, and you drag your still smoldering carcass through the whole mess again.

So here’s the yang and yin; the L-O-V-E and H-A-T-E tattoos that Robert Mitchum wore on his knuckles are now on your heart.

(This one’s for you, Eli.)

SHE LOVES ME side

DANIELLES MOUTH – Crush

Sweet, saucy, sexy – is there anything better than a crush? Can be innocent, but I know what Danielle wants!

JONNY POLONSKY – Love Lovely Love

I know Jonny isn’t sixteen, but it’s that bubbly optimism that gets me. Great pop record, except it was only 30 minutes long…

BIG STAR – Thirteen

One of my favorite songs, ever! Alex Chilton perfectly captures that frustration of being a (sorry, Dion) “teenager in love”

MARSHALL CRENSHAW – I’ll Do Anything

From maybe the best debut record ever….love makes you do funny things!

DWIGHT TWILLEY – Please Say Please

This Beatle-esque rocker a bonus track on the reissue of the great “Sincerely” record. Self-explanatory!

THE REPLACEMENTS – Kiss Me On The Bus

Maybe the same couple from “Thirteen”? Forget what’s proper and KISS ME, baby!

PHIL SEYMOUR – Baby It’s You

The late, great Phil with what has to be one of the most perfect pop records ever made! Sing it LOUD!

ADAM SCHMITT – Garden of Love

So you’re afraid, baby, been hurt before? Trust me! From what might be the best record of the 1990’s

LOU CHRISTIE – Lightning Strikes

I remember this from when I was a young pup, having my heart yo-yo’d for one of the first of many times. A classic!

BEN VAUGHN – Words Can’t Say What I Want To Say

Yeah, I’ve felt like this. That ga-ga, mouth-open, please-god-don’t-let-me-say-something-stupid moment

RICHARD X HEYMAN – When She Arrives

I can’t wait until “Cornerstone” comes out so you can all see what a great record this is. A love cycle in itself!

THE FACES – Tell Everyone

A Ronnie Lane tune, but Rod sings it…true love settles in for the long haul?

CROWDED HOUSE – Fall At Your Feet

An adult version of the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There”, with music so pretty I’d love it even without the words! Uh-oh, side’s over….

SHE LOVES ME NOT side

JOHAN – Easy

Swedish pop rules! A 1997 record that almost slipped by sees the chink in the armour…

THE FLASHCUBES – You’re Not The Police

Things are starting to fall apart..we can’t go on together, with suspicious minds. GREAT 1997 reissue!

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS – Bored Of You

Uh-oh….nice guys finish last. Why do women want to be treated like queens and then fall for rude assholes? Moe knows…

THE RUBINOOS – Over You

Where I start lying to myself, saying that it doesn’t hurt…all the while my heart is bleeding…

THE MONTGOMERY CLIFFS – Tonight

More bravado, and two can play that game, baby…this time when you put the cheese in the trap, I’m not buying.

JEN TRYNIN – I Resign

I think Jen is the best female songwriter around. I love the way her mind works!

THE RASCALS – You Better Run

Pat Benetar, eat your heart out. Oh yeah – I ain’t gonna eat out my heart anymore……

THE BEAT – I Will Say No

Go on, get out of my life, and let me make a new start. Maybe the longest fade out in pop history

KENNY HOWES – Somebody

Not sure if she’s still trying to come back or whether I’m fooling myself, but I feel better. Get lost!

THE KINKS – Set Me Free

It’s frightening to think just how many great songs Ray Davies wrote in about three years time. Bye Bye Baby!

DWIGHT TWILLEY – Release Me

I never put an artist on a tape twice, but have to here. SINCERELY is a Desert Island Disk! Heartbreak!

TOMMY KEENE – Nothing Happened Yesterday

More self-denial from one of the great pop unknowns. I am man, hear me roar!

TONIO K – Stay

Oh shit….two damaged people see that spark and circle each other – should I try to fall in love again? Flip the tape over, honey, ’cause here we go again!

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In Praise of Crowded House

Last night I sauntered off to the North Coast of America (read: lakeside in Buffalo, New York) to see Crowded House play for he ridiculously exorbitant price of $10. They put on an incredible show; the set featured several cuts from the brand new album Intriguer and just about every song from the career arc that I wanted to hear (if there was a glaring exception, perhaps it was  “Mean To Me”). Funny how you take for granted that a band has so many great songs and then you still catch yourself saying “oh yeah…and THAT one!”.

The crowd was decent sized but not overwhelming; I suspect many acts draw far more on a downtown Friday evening and I found myself wondering why the park wasn’t so cramped that people were being squeezed off the land into the lake. Then I remembered that Crowded House‘s peak of popularity was in the mid-80s…when eMpTV still played music videos.

The band might be tighter than ever, usually a 4-piece (Mark Hart is amazing – I swear he played nine instruments – although a fifth guy popped in on occasion as well (probably the guitar tech…or an unemployed Tim?).  Kudos to the production staff as the sound and mix were pristine. Finn was in great humor, weaving lyrics about local color (including the monstrous highway overpass over his left shoulder) and looking natty in his white dinner jacket. The set and encore lasted short of two hours, and the always poignant “Better Be Home Soon” signalled it was time to do just that.

I’ll have a write-up on the new CD and DVD soon, but in the meantime here’s the label blurb.

Following up on their 2007 release Time On Earth – their first studio recording in 14 years – Crowded House returns with Intriguer. Produced by Jim Scott (Wilco), this all-new recording brings together singer/guitarist and chief songwriter Neil Finn with original Crowded House bassist Nick Seymour and keyboardist/guitarist Mark Hart. Says Finn: “Intriguer is exotic in parts, traditional in origin. It may just be the best thing we’ve done.”

The opener was (I am not making up this name) Lawrence Arabia. The first song was poor in an indie-jamband pretentious kind of way but then the rest of the set was phenomenal. Watching a tall thin man rock a pair of tight red gym shorts was a little off-putting (he did ask if his milky thighs were offending anyone) but the band is anything but. The cheeky song titles are matched by appealing music that runs the table, frankly. It appears they are on tour with Crowded House for the summer, and since they’re from Christchurch I suggest you take advantage!

Crowded House official website

Lawrence Arabia MySpace site

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Life Is Good

Went to see The Beehive Queen tonight, as part of the Rochester International Jazz Festival (yeah, I know…) and she was amazing. Had the crowd in the palm of her hand the whole time; got a standing ovation during the last song.

And that was just the early show. I’ll have a link to the live review later this week, but here’s a link to 83 song clips that will blow your mind.

Also on the horizon as part of the Jazz Fest – The Bottle Rockets on Thursday (yeah, I know – also not jazz!). Later this month, Zappa Plays Zappa; next month Crowded House, John Hiatt and maybe even a road trip to see a double bill of Squeeze with Cheap Trick. Already saw Marah once last week and might catch another show.

Todd Barry, Doug Stanhope and Marc Maron are all coming to the hinterlands – those three are very high on my list of the best comics around. There’s a Bill Hicks movie on the way, too.

And I’m looking at the Detroit calendar (thanks Suebedoo) to see how I can maximize another pilgrimage to see the hottest band on Earth, The Hell Drivers. Speaking of which, it looks like it’s going to be one hell of a summer.

Life is good.

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New Album! D.Rogers

On his third album, Melbourne singer/songwriter D. Rogers offers up 14 short pop songs that are predominantly delicate melodies lovingly executed. Tapping a large pool of regional musicians, Rogers sparingly accessorizes his melodies with horns, strings, and handclaps.

Most tracks barely exceed the two minute mark, if that. His voice is appealing and the production is pristine, and although there are no songs you’ll nominate as anthems, it flows beautifully.

Listen to some clips at CD BABY

Read my review on PopMatters where I note the DNA of several popular touchstones, from Neil Finn and Crowded House to Beatles Paul, George and Ringo.

D. Rogers website

D. Rogers on MySpace

Popboomerang Records website

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