--Tom Petty, Rolling Stone interview, 1999
Thursday April 3: The BoDeans;
At Irving Plaza they played a good part of the new record, mixed with the familiar concert staples that had the crowd jumping and rocking and glowing. Sammy sang “I’m in Trouble Again,” a sad hidden gem from the second record, and called an audible late in the set to do “Ultimately Fine,” a rocker from the first. Perhaps the adrenalin-fueled highlight was the bar-band rocker “Good Work,” which actually contains the line “Be-bop-a-lula on a
Wednesday April 9: Counting Crows; The Apple Store;
Every time I go on a business trip I check Pollstar to see if anyone decent is playing in town. Finally I hit pay dirt. The Crows are doing a brief acoustic tour of Apple in-store appearances, and turns out they’ll be in
To an intimate audience of 450, the band played a couple of old tunes, and most of the second half of their new album (Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, essentially an album with two distinct sides, all on the one CD.)
Singer Adam Duritz is a polarizing figure; some people love the guy, some hate him, think he’s a self-indulgent, fake-dreadlocked, whiny faux sensitive jerk. To these people I say, get over yourself. I’m in the former camp, I've dug this band since I listened to the first 25 seconds of August and Everything After in a Tower Records listening station and decided, "Yeah, I like this stuff." At this gig, which alternated between performance and question-and-answer, Duritz was open and charming and approachable and really, you just couldn’t help but like the guy, and to like the band. I got to ask a question about what were some of his and their favorite records of the past few years. He immediately cited the Sufjan Stevens record Come On Feel the Illinoise, and particularly the song “John Wayne Gacy.” Duritz noted that the piano part on that song was the inspiration for the piano on one of the songs on the new record (I think ‘Washington Square,” but don’t quote me.) You’ll remember that all of us here at APW loved that record when it was out; it was our number 2 of 2005 and we even cited the same tune as the stand-out. He also cited Rikkie Lee Jones’s Naked Songs, a solo acoustic thing, as well as her latest release. Other records mentioned by the band included Amy Winehouse and these guys, previously touted to me by the Tour Mystic and a very hip choice. Duritz said he was a fan of Winehouse’s singing, because she managed to sing authentic soul without going over the top.
Musically I thought the highlights were the near-classic “Mr. Jones,” and the new “
But the overall highlight for me was when Duritz talked about writing “Accidentally In Love,” the great upbeat song that plays over the opening montage of Shrek 2, and which just happens to be my daughter’s favorite song. He asked, “How many of you have seen Snow White?” Hands went up. “Well, your mothers and your grandmothers saw it too. I have nephews and nieces and god children, and I wanted to do something like that for them.” He also said he’s never written a line a good as, “I surrender to strawberry ice cream, never never ender,” a metaphor (or is it a simile?) for tumbling head over heels into love, and just one of the happy-making lines that tumbles out in that great, great tune.
And really, how can you not love a guy who wrote your kid’s favorite song?
Wednesday April 16; Mudcrutch; The Fillmore;
Another week, more business travel, and this time my friend Chrispy, local to the Bay Area, tells me she has an extra ticket to see Mudcrutch, if I want it.
I want it.
Mudcrutch was a
Mudcrutch has just reconvened and cut a new record; Petty sings and plays bass; Heartbreakers Mike Campbell (lead guitar) and Benmont Tench (keyboards, vocals) are on board as well, along with singer-guitarist Tom Leadon (Petty’s lifelong buddy; he sang some lead and was clearly the happiest guy on stage if not in the entire state of California) and original drummer Randall Marsh.
The Fillmore is a great place—it was my first time there, and Chrispy gave me the $10 tour, including the poster room, a hip little space upstairs with a bar where a band plays prior to the show. No opening band, Mudcrutch comes on not long after the announced 8PM start time. They open with “Shady Grove,” a song associated with both Jerry Garcia and the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and thus (as Chrispy notes) a perfect song to kick things off here in the Bay Area. Petty tells us there is a new record and that they’re going to play it all, plus some covers. Several times they made a point of telling us that the Fillmore was their favorite place to play (they did a month-long run there in 1997) and Petty noted that “no audience listens to music like a
That “cosmic hippie music" was evocative of latter era Byrds (after they became sweethearts of the rodeo) and early Eagles (think the Desperado record but not the title track.)
At the end of the set the band played a sort of slow, epic power ballad kind of thing called “Crystal River”—named, said Petty, for a river that “runs through Florida, and sometimes my mind.” It was a slow hypnotic groove song, pulling you into its time-stands-still lull, washing over you. And from that still, inward place, guitarist Mike Campbell-- stellar all night-- took off into the stratosphere, "hitting the note,” as my Allman Brothers friends say, scratching that yearning itch deep down in your soul, shining over a rock-solid anchor of Petty’s bass. It came in ringlets and waves, simple, concise, ringing, magnificent.
A word about the sublime Mike Campbell. Most of the guitar players I listen to are live players; they don’t do the song the same way two nights in the row, and the studio records are at best attempts to capture some representative version of what it is they do on stage. Their art is what happens in the moment, and it is difficult to capture on record (exception: Derek Trucks, Songlines.) Mike Campbell is a different animal.
But on “
It was the perfect second-to-last song, a song that poses a metaphysical question that hangs in the air after the final notes ring out... and then Mudcrutch clears the bases, falling into the perfect closing number, another Dylan cover, “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35” (which you may know better as “Everybody Must Get Stoned.”)
The encores were, as the kids say, sick. Eddie Cochran's “Summertime Blues.” Little Richard's “Rip It Up." And then the Jerry Lee Lewis stomp, “High School Confidential” (“rockin’ at the high school hop…”) By that one the light was just pouring out of everyone's rock’n’roll chakras, and I thought to myself, as they just laid it on good and thick, slathering the rock'n'roll jelly on both sides of the bread, shaking me to the bottom of my boogie shoes, “This is not even fair.” It was just that good.
(This isn't the best song of the night, but it is the best video I could find on Youtube. It reminds me a little of "Mary Jane's Last Dance.")
Keith Richards and the X-pensive Winos, "Something Else", 2-13-93. Off a boot. They opened with this Eddie Cochran tune at the '92-'93 shows. Great stuff. Keith and Waddy Wachtel, I believe, on guitars. Nice choppy ragged play-out at the end.
Ray Charles and Milt Jackson, "Blue Genius," Soul Brothers, Soul Meeting. Great record, 2 CDs of instrumental classy jazzy blues (or bluesy jazz, it's tough to say.) Not enough Os in smoooth... in a good way. Lots of vibes. I'm glad everyone went out and bought a Ray Charles record after that Jamie Foxx movie, but there are so many great Ray Charles records out there that don't have the hits on them, some that don't even have singing...
Fleetwood Mac, "Save Me a Place," Tusk. One of 2 or 3 straight up Beach Boys homages Lindsey Buckingham included on this record. It's lovely. Here's my "Save Me a Place" story. In 1993 I finally got to see him live; he'd been notoriously stage-averse. I was in the second row at Town Hall. He played this song as a first encore-- a somewhat obscure choice for the guy who had just closed the set with "Go Your Own Way." On the chorus, the layered harmonies were just so spine-tinglingly chilling and beautiful that I, there in the second row, let out a lone "Whoo!" Lindsey smiled and bowed directly to me, as if to say, "Why yes, that IS the good part, and thank you for noticing!" I was putty.
David Grahame, "Imagine That," Eric. Lovely, gorgeous pop ditty in the vein of Josh Rouse or softer Matthew Sweet or heck, even side 2 of Something/Anything. Sadly this guy seems to have retired. Went to high school with Lane Steinberg of Tan Sleeve and the Wind.
Paul McCartney, "Singalong Junk," McCartney. Perfect segue. I sang along.
Jon Auer, "Wicked World," Songs From the Year of Our Demise. "You're all I want in this wicked world." Basically his fragile pretty voice and acoustic guitar, with some backing "woos" for good measure... These last four songs collectively are totally un-macho, almost wussy. And I love them. Anyone wanna make something of it?... From a record about Auer's divorce. Top-5 break-up records (not in order): Rumours; Shoot Out the Lights; Girlfriend; Blood on the Tracks; Hearts and Bones.
Chris Whitley, "Bordertown, " Living With the Law. Loved this one-- it has that Daniel Lanois vibe, produced by Lanois's partner Malcolm Burns. Whitley was gone too soon. This record is timeless. Put it in the changer with the first Robbie Robbie Robertson album, the Neville Brothers' Yellow Moon, Peter Gabriel's So, and Lanois's Acadie. Hit random. Enjoy.
Silos, "Upside Down Instead," Susan Across the Ocean. Straight ahead rock'n'roll. It even has a line that goes, "they shook it to the left." Like some of the best Silos tunes, features the haunting yet rocking electric violin of Ethel's Mary Rowell.
Chris Stamey, "Big Time," Its Alright. Not my favorite dBs/Stamey work because it sounds really '80s; the production feels dated.
Pretenders, "Back On the Chain Gang," Learning to Crawl. 'nuff said. A perfect song.