September 2008                (back)

Willie Nelson: Sept 25th Radio City Music Hall (Jakob Dylan opens)

A Willie Nelson concert can be like having a tour guide for a history of American music exhibit. The show includes country, blues, jazz, folk, rock and honky-tonk among others. He does original material, covers and standards and, in fact, has written some American standards himself such as Patsy Cline's Crazy and Ray Price's Night Life, which is reportedly the most covered country song of all time.

The play list for this show included All of Me, City of New Orleans, Me and Bobby McGee, Crazy, You Were Always on My Mind, Help Me Make It Thru The Night, Georgia on My Mind, Hey Good Lookin and, of course, On The Road Again, just to name some. He also did Hank Williams and Django Reinhart covers, as well as some new material including a song called I'm Not Superman. (my video)  

He's an impressive guitarist and his voice sounds about as good as ever (I like his voice, but you can take the previous comment however you like). Norah Jones came out and sang a couple of songs with Willie who amusingly added afterwards that you never know who'll show up at one of his shows, but some nights are better than others.  

Jakob Dylan opened the show with his back up band, The Gold Mountain Rebels, and did mostly songs from his new solo release called Seeing Things. It's a little more country sounding than the Wallflowers and was a perfect opening act for Willie. Will it Grow and Everybody Pays as They Go were two of my favorites.  Here's a listen: (my video)

 

Sam Phillips: Sept 18th at La Poisson Rouge

This is obviously not the Sam Phillips of "Sun Records" fame. This one began her career in the early 80's as Christian artist Leslie Phillips before leaving that label to become singer/songwriter Sam Phillips. She got out of her commitment to the Christian label, who she found way too controlling of content, by telling them that she'd begin every show by announcing that she has pre-marital sex. Funny and clever!

She's released a long string of critically acclaimed CD's since then, the high mark probably being 1994's Martinis and Bikinis. Her music blends the waltz and oom-pah beats of a junk band with Beatlesque melodies, insightful lyrics and occasional rock influences. She recently divorced from her producer husband, T-Bone Burnett, and self-produced her new release Don't Do Anything, and was very effective at maintaining her distinctive sound.

Playing acoustic guitar and backed by accordion, strobe violin (a violin with a weird megaphone attached) and the amazing Jay Bellarose on drums, she wove through a cross section of fan favorites (I Need Love, Reflecting Light...) and material from the new CD (Signal, My Career in Chemistry...). (my video of Signal)

I ran into singer/songwriter David Poe after the show who thought this was one of the best things he's seen in quite some time. He got no argument from me.

 

Musicfest 2008: Sept 5th & 6th Nomahagen Park in Cranford, NJ (Everclear, Cracker, Felix Cavaliere, Mike Peters...)

This years festival was changed from a 1 day to a 2 day affair, which is very fortunate because after a beautiful day on Friday, the monsoons that were predicted for Saturday arrived at about 3PM, eventually causing the cancellation of the B-52's, Gin Blossoms and a few others.

Friday's show was headlined by Everclear, one of the biggest alternative rock bands from the 90's. They played some of their most popular tunes (Santa Monica, I Will Buy You a New Life...) as well as dedications to vice presidential nominee Sara Palin (the very derogatory Volvo Driving Soccer Mom) and John McCain (You Make Me Feel Like a Whore). Those 2 songs, along with some foul language from front man Alex Alexakis, have caused a little bit of an uproar among Republicans in the Democratically controlled town.

They also covered Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl, The Stones Far Away Eyes and concluded the show by inviting forty female audience members on stage to dance to the smash "one-hit wonder" Jenny/867-5309 by Tommy Tutone. (Far Away Eyes)

David Lowery of Cracker

Cracker, one of my favorite rock bands of the 90's, mixed alternative rock, pop and country music with their special brand of twisted humor best exemplified by their pre-Cracker tune Take The Skinheads Bowling, which they used to close their set.

They also did fan favorites like Teen Angst, Happy Birthday To Me, Mr Wrong and Low from their first 2 releases and some later works like One Fine Day, my favorite of the set, and The Riverside which is from their most recent release. They're a band I've always been interested in seeing and they did not disappoint. Actually that's an understatement, it was a thrill! (One Fine Day)

I caught bits of earlier sets including a solo set by Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens, pop rocker Jenny Owen Youngs and pop balladeers HelenaMaria. I'm going to guess that the two beautiful young twins in that band are named Helena and Maria. They both sang, played acoustic guitar and keyboards. Some of the material was a little too pop for me, but their harmonies hinted at lots of potential and I enjoyed a good portion of the set.

Fair is fair, here's the other twin but you'll have to tell me which is which.

On Saturday, Mike Peters of The Alarm performed a set with the Chamber Orchestra from The New Jersey Symphony. The anti-war song The Deceiver was one of my favorites as well as Walk Forever By My Side which he dedicated to his wife. He's a two time cancer survivor, and you can almost physically feel his love and appreciation for his wife. Other fan favorites were Strength and the completely appropriate Rain In The Summertime. A very enjoyable set.

Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals performed a few of their big hits (Groovin, Good Lovin...) just before the sky opened up and I headed out.