Saturday, July 24, 2010


Saw Widespread Panic on Thursday night (7/22) at Radio City Music Hall.  I really like this band and they follow the general rules of jamband-dom...great live act, bad-to-mediocre studio albums.  Their most recent disc "Dirty Side Down" is a good record, and breaks a 10 year spell of inconsistency on their non-live releases. They played 3 songs from the new disc, but unfortunately didn't play "Cotton Was King", an excellent new upbeat tune in the style of "Time Zones", another great recent song from them (on 2008's "Earth to America").  I've seen these guys 8 times now (all in NYC) and this is the first show where I felt they weren't on their "A" game.  The difference in their shows (to me) is usually the setlist....and Thursday nights was not a strong one.  The crowd was also much thinner than the last time these guys were here (in 08) with lots of open seats in the rear orchestra and balconies.  They opened with a sleepy "Heroes" not one of the stronger songs off the "Ain't Life Grand" disc, but then went into "Pleas", an excellent song from their 1993 disc "Everyday".  The rest of the show was up and down, but mostly maintained a workmanlike tone, never really reaching any highs like I've experienced at other WSP shows.  Highlight for me was "Pilgrims", a great song also from "Everyday", and although it wasn't a killer performance, it's one my favorite WSP tunes, and they weren't playing many of those on Thursday .  Some of their songs can tend toward jumbled noise live, and I found the songs "Imitation Leather Shoes", "Flicker",  "Impossible",  "Bust It Big" and "Arleen" interminable live...these are songs that aren't good on album and live they became an exercise in excess.   Some of the songs just sound like an excuse for Jimmy Herring (lead guitar) to show how fast and accurate he is...he's very technically proficient but he's got no soul, and that's the problem for me with this incarnation of the band.  I also don't understand the odd setlist choices for this's their 1st NYC show in 2 years, and their only NYC appearance this year.  Some real duds in the setlist....1st set was stronger than the 2nd set, song-wise, but there are dozens of songs I would have rather heard than most of what they played Thursday night.  Guest DJ Logic was standing on the side of the stage scratching records during the always boring drums interlude, and also for a few songs in the 2nd set.  I can't say that he really added anything.  Hopefully I'll see/hear a better setlist and show next time.  They really seemed like they were going through the motions, and I felt the same when I saw their appearance on Letterman earlier in the week.  Hopefully these guys can find a way to make NYC work for them....The Beacon Theater would be a much better venue for them, Radio City is just too big.  Interesting to note that the last time WSP played NYC, they played 3 nights at RCMH (not selling them out), and this time around they couldn't even sell out 1 night.  They need to play in NY/NJ more often and at more fan-friendly confines.  Showing up once every couple of years just doesn't cut it.  And I don't think I'd see them at Radio City again.
Below is the setlist and a snippet of the drum and bass interlude with DJ Logic adding repetitive beats.

Set I: Heroes> Pleas> Imitation Leather Shoes, True To My Nature, Angels on High, Airplane> Pilgrims, Saint Ex, Protein Drink> Sewing Machine
Set II: Flicker> Diner> Stop Breakin' Down Blues, Jaded Tourist>Impossible> Drums1> Love Tractor1> Bust It Big1> Arleen1> I'm Not Alone, Solid Rock
Encore: Henry Parsons Died

1 with DJ Logic on turntables

Thursday, July 22, 2010

ruining a good thing

I went to see Tea Leaf Green the other night at Mexicali Live in Teaneck (great venue for live music).  I could only stay for the 1st set (they played 1 hour and then took a 45 minute break...???) but they sounded very good.  They always mix up their setlists and at Mexicali they didn't play anything from either of their excellent last 2 discs ("Taught To Be Proud" and "Raise Up The Tent").  Instead, they focused on their newest release "Looking West".  The songs from the new disc sounded really good....what I can't understand is why they chose to ruin them on their studio release.  I downloaded "Looking West" hoping to hear more great piano based rock (with some great guitar) similar to what's come before, as they've been a very consistent band.  But this new release is beyond a disappointment.  The songs are basically good, it's the production that's awful.  I understand bands wanting to try new directions and mix it up a bit, but what they've done here is ruined a potentially excellent album.  I don't know what they were going for on this...strange attempt at "atmosphere"?  Some of the songs are just unlistenable, as they've added ridiculous echoes and reverb that makes zero sense.  I've heard many attempts at bands looking to try new sounds by hiring producers from outside their comfort zone, and the results are hit or miss, usually miss.  "Looking West" isn't even close, it's a disaster and if you're a TLG fan I'd advise you to find these songs on live recordings instead.  At Mexicali they played "Jackson Hole" a new song that is almost listenable on the new disc, but in concert sounds transformed into a great rock tune.  I ran into Josh Clark the bands' lead guitarist (excellent player) coming out of the men's room and was tempted to ask him why the disc came out so bad, but I thought this wasn't such great timing, as the band hadn't yet taken the stage.  They were also in Teaneck, NJ on a 90 degree Tuesday night, touring in support of the new disc, so I let discretion be the better part of valor that night.  But I think they realize their mistake, as does the record company that's currently NOT promoting the disc.  They need to find a new producer for their next record.  Here's a clip of them doing the title track of their new disc:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Expired Sugar

Sugar Minott, one of the great original voices of reggae, died yesterday from yet to be determined cause(s).  His biggest song was a cover of a Jackson 5 song called "Good Thing Going".  (I first heard it on a compilation called "Heartbeat Reggae", which was one of my first CD purchases in 1986 when I decided to make the switch from vinyl).  I don't know that much about him, other than he was a jack-of-all-trades reggae singer, singing in the different idioms of reggae music including dancehall, lover's rock, and roots. Sugar wasn't associated with any great band of musicians...many big reggae artists became forever linked to a particular producer (such as Lee Perry) or rhythm section (such as Sly & Robbie) with whom they've had success.  Sugar began by working with Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, one of the seminal producers from Jamaica, but worked in many different styles, and was particularly influential in dancehall (a style I'm not fond of at all).  He did however have a great distinctive voice which will be missed.

The golden age of reggae (imho) was the mid-70's to the early 80's, when roots and lover's rock were the foundation of the music that such great singers as The Wailers, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, and Jacob Miller were making.  It stills hold up today, especially when compared to the garbage electronic and dancehall reggae that eventually took over in popularity.  If you go back and listen to the music made by groups like The Melodians, The Meditations, The Itals, Third World, and many more, you hear what authentic reggae sounds like, music that was based on a spiritual ideal, with positive messages...not to mention a wicked rhythm section.   

Friday, July 9, 2010

The (surviving) Beatles

Ringo Starr celebrated his 70th birthday this week with a stop at Radio City Music Hall.  Paul McCartney came out to play "Birthday" for an encore, it must've been unreal to have been there in person.  No matter how jaded I become I still get a thrill every time I see any Beatles getting together....they're living history.  It doesn't get much better than having an opportunity to see the 2 surviving Beatles play together, no matter how brief or ultimately inconsequential the tune.  Cool.