Archive for October, 2011

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Shelby Lynne: “This shit doesn’t happen to Joni Mitchell”

October 30, 2011

I didn’t know for sure that I was going to Shelby Lynne’s solo concert at the Rio until the moment I bought a ticket at the door. That’s not my usual way.

Typically I get tickets at the exact millisecond that a presale starts to absolutely ensure I get in. But I couldn’t do that with this show because of circumstances. Miles was playing in a concert the very same night, all the way in Richmond, and I wasn’t sure what time it would be over. So as a supportive parent, I couldn’t commit to Shelby. Luckily, the band Miles was in (BCMEA Honour Jazz Ensemble, which sounded great by the way), played first before the choir that we really didn’t need to hear. So as soon as Miles packed up his gear (drummers always take a long time), I shooed the family out of the church where he played, dropped mother off, dropped the family off, and high-tailed it to the Rio.

I even got a seat in the third row of the classic old theatre. As it turned out, I was about 25 minutes early. That whole time before the concert began Lynne’s music played through the PA. It was her new album, Revelation Road. I overheard a man behind me say that the entire album had cycled through three times, and he had never heard anything like that at zillions of shows he had attended over the years. It was in fact odd to hear recorded songs that we were about to hear live. Whether it was for marketing purposes, or due to a lack of imagination, playing the headliner’s music before the gig was a misguided decision.

Why I wanted to be at the show: I have a thing for female singer/songwriters like Lynne, her sister Allison Moorer, Tift Merrit, Patty Griffin, and Julie Miller, who all have country roots but don’t necessarily stay where they came from. I saw Lynne perform at Richard’s on Richards (miss that place) in 2008. It was a much different show, with a band, that focused on songs from her Dusty Springfield tribute album (Just a Little Lovin’). And I liked it, a lot, mainly because of Lynne’s spot-on singing and stage presence.

A clip from Lynne’s Portland show, the night before performing in Vancouver (and wearing the same vest):

Why I enjoyed the Rio show:

The evening started slowly, with the odd choice of pre-concert music, and she looked and sounded kind of indifferent during her first few songs. But Lynne loosened up, especially after she picked up a guitar that clearly wasn’t tuned the way she wanted it. After her guitar tech grabbed the guitar to give it another go, Lynne said, in a deadpan voice: “This shit doesn’t happen to Joni Mitchell.”

Later, someone requested “Old #7”, a great drinking tune from her Tears, Lies, And Alibis album. Lynne shot darts in the direction of the requester and said “I don’t normally take requests.” Then she proceeded to perform the song.

She won me and the rest of audience over with both incidents. Lynne can be very gracious with audiences, but she also has an edge that makes her so interesting.

Other reasons why I enjoyed the Rio show:

  • She did “Killin’ Kind”, which is a perfect pop song, and “Leavin'”, which is a perfect soul song.
  • Lynne performed solo – accompanying herself on guitar – which isn’t all that rare, but I still marvel at the ability of artists to do it. I know I would be scared shitless.
  • She was generous in giving a fairly long show, starting with tunes from the new album (hmmm … sounds familiar) and thanking the audience for listening to the new material, then giving a cross-section of songs from her career.
  • Lynne talked just the right amount between songs, giving context to some tunes, and indirectly conveying the sense that she’s found her way through challenges.

Next time I’m buying a ticket right away.

Another clip from Portland:

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Best music doc at VIFF: Michel Petrucciani

October 29, 2011

As I always do when the Vancouver International Film Festival rolls around, I saw a bunch of music documentaries. This year’s crop that I caught included Morente (about a flamenco great), Andrew Bird: Fever Year (about a difficult but productive year in the life of a brilliant alternative musician), and Michel Petrucciani. The film about Petrucciani, who was three feet tall and one of the world’s greatest jazz pianists before he died young, was by far the best music doc I saw. It was insightful about his music and funny, as it showed how he lived life full-on, despite his physical challenges.

I have a thing for characterful cemeteries, like Père Lachaise in Paris. I’ve been there a number of times, and on the last visit, I saw Petrucciani’s tombstone. So he’s there with Chopin, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Maria Callas, and other iconic artists. When I visited, I didn’t know what I know now about Petrucciani’s extraordinary life after seeing the film. But I’m glad I saw the resting place of a master musician.

Michel Petrucciani's, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

How masterful was he? Check out this mind-blowing version of “Caravan”:

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Braving the River Rock for the Zombies

October 28, 2011

I’m a little behind in the blogging, despite my recently stated pledge to be more prolific (ie blog more than once a year). So here’s a catch-up item.

I’ve always resisted going to see shows at the River Rock Theatre. I cringe when I see the likes of Air Supply and Chicago in the River Rock’s weekly Georgia Straight ad. Although I’ve always said I would go if Merle Haggard showed up. (I’ve seen Johnny Cash and George Jones but not The Hag.)

Well, I finally caved when two sets of friends said they were going to see The Zombies at the River Rock. I didn’t know much about the band, aside from their great song “She’s Not There”, which the band I play in covers. So I bought a ticket. (Why are River Rock tickets so expensive? Another deterrent to going there.) I took the Canada Line directly to the Rock and walked by the depressing scene of mainly Asian people throwing their money away in the casino to get to the theatre.

The Zombies & The Strawbs on the River Rock Theatre Marquee

The Zombies at the River Rock Theatre

I’ll talk about both musical and non-musical aspects of the evening. Musically speaking, the Zombies were very good. I could see why the band has been so influential (many artists – from Elliott Smith to Neko Case to the Foo Fighters – have covered Zombies songs). They wrote great, ahead-of-their-time songs (like “Time of the Season” and “Care of Cell 44”) and still perform them with a lot of vigour.

The show was part of the Zombie’s 50th anniversary tour. Think about that for a second – that’s mind-boggling longevity (regardless of the long hiatus they had). Colin Blunstone is still a wondrous singer and Rod Argent is still the quintessential rock keyboardist. As a keyboardist myself, it was a thrill to hear Argent live. And Jim Rodford, longtime Kinks bassist, was also in the band, which was a bonus.

Check out Argent’s killing, multi-keyboard solo on “She’s Not There”:

And here’s the original version of “She’s Not There”, with beautiful women in arty poses:

I didn’t care for the Strawbs, who opened for the Zombies, mainly because I found lead singer Dave Cousins’ voice grating. They haven’t aged well like the Zombies.

Now for the non-musical report. The audience at the River Rock was pretty much as scary as I thought it would be. Many older men with receding hairlines (including myself) and pot bellies. (I’m not judging, I’m just sayin’.) Then there was the Man from Glad sitting in front of me. He tried very hard to pick up the woman seated two over from him. He talked her up, and she wasn’t resisting, talking as loudly as he was – in the middle of the concert! Glad Man eventually wormed his way over to the seat next to her and soon had his arm behind her seat. After the show, however, he walked away empty-handed. She’s not there, indeed.