Wednesday, December 16, 2009
So I get a text Sunday that someone has two tickets for me to see the Arctic Monkeys this past Monday night. The guy says he is going to the Habs game and cant use them. After Monday night seems like we may have both lost.
I saw the Arctic Monkey back a couple of years ago when they first came on to the music scene. The first album was high energy and so was the show. That show was so memorable for me for an odd reason. As I stood outside someone asked me how old I was. As I told them ( 35 at the time), they responded..." WOW Good for you!! Coming to these shows will keep you young!!"
Fast forward three years..Two albums later the band continues to impress critics with the new album which is a little more mellow. Too bad ..
I may have aged three years..maybe even found some grey on my head..but if I wanted mellow I would wait for Air Supply to come back..
The concert itself ran along the lines of the album..Some mellow, some higher energy..some well lots that sounded like one long song!
The best way to enjoy the show was be part of the mosh pit and get a better feel for the show..I stood back with my buddy, watched the 15 year old kids take pictures on the iphones, text on the blackberry and realize I wish it I was put back into a time machine to be at a Ramones show..
Ive never left a show early in my life..I left this one at the encore.
As i left the show there were no comments for me about my age...All the kids were too busy messaging their friends next to them.
Happy Holiday everyone!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Jay-Z triumphed at the Bell Centre on October 30th. Having been in the hip-hop game since his legendary 1996 release “Reasonable Doubt”, this Brooklyn boy has managed to stay relevant and real.
The three opening acts, for the most part, successfully satisfied the antsy audience as they awaited the arrival of a true hip-hop superstar.
Rapper J-Cole, featured on Jay-Z’s latest release, The Blueprint 3, performed a short set of three songs, charming the spectators with his lively personality and stage presence.
Next up was Wale, hailing from Washington, D.C, accompanied by his hype-man, a completely unnecessary component to his act. His whiny singing voice served less as a support outlet and more like a distraction. Wale immediately confessed to the crowd how grateful he is that Montreal “gave his city a baseball team”. This playful taunt surely engaged the audience almost as much as when he strolled into the seats during his last song, letting the lucky people on the floor get rowdy. The highlight of his performance was the backing band who played an unexpected cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.
The final opener, N.E.R.D, led by front man Pharrell Williams, is the ideal act to hype up any crowd. I last saw them a couple years ago when they joined Kanye “I’m the Best” West on his Glow in the Dark Tour, and their energetic, animated live show never seizes to impress.
Jay-Z, rising from a platform below the stage, dressed sharply like Johnny Cash “in all black everything”, echoing the lyrics to his most recent single “Run This Town” and the song that opened the show, was greeted like a God. His last Montreal concert was a decade ago. Old fans were glad to have him back, ready to savour each song they’ve been listening to for years. Young fans, like the little boy brought up onstage, his first time seeing Jay in concert, in awe of this smooth, classy New Yorker whose style and natural Brooklyn swagger they try so eagerly to emulate. There were more Yankee caps in the crowd than at a ballgame at Yankee Stadium. Mr. Shawn Carter entertained his admirers with non-stop classic Jay songs chosen from his vast repertoire of hits. He performed a handful of tracks off of The Blueprint 3, devoted to each one, each rhyme, each syllable. He was having fun too, feeding off the fans as their energy level got higher and higher with each song, forcing them to their feet for the entire show. His encore consisted of a stream of hits, closing with “Young Forever”, the final song off his latest album. It made my friend’s eyes tear up and definitely gave me the best kind of shivers. The most moving moment, however, was when Jay singled out specific individuals in the crowd, letting them know that he noticed them and cared that they were there. Leaving the stage from the same platform he arrived, he looked as powerful as The Statue of Liberty. Like the lady in the harbour, Jay Z is the real thing.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I was on vacation in Holguin, which is Cuba’s fourth largest city. On a beautiful sunny afternoon I stumbled into La Caverna, a bar unlike any other I had been to in Cuba. The first thing I noticed wasn’t what music was playing, it was what music wasn’t playing.
Had I really found a Cuban bar that didn’t play Cuban music? Does such a beast exist?
It turned out that La Caverna was the Cuban version of the Cavern Club. There were Beatles records on the walls, lyrics scrawled on the walls, and (fab) four life size mannequins of the boys in the corner.
Only Beatles music is played at La Caverna, and it’s either pumped from the speakers or it’s played by one of Holguin’s Beatles cover bands. It was like being in a sports bar that supports only one team- and that team doesn’t play anymore (Hmm. That gives me an idea...)
So when I tried to strike up a conversation with the bartender about my fave British band and he looked at me with complete bewilderment, I was completely shocked.
“How could you be such a Beatles fanatic and have no clue who the Stones are?”
I didn’t ask that question, but from what I could gather while I was there the Government did a damn good job of keeping foreign music off the island, except for Los Beatles.
Maybe Fidel tried to take credit for Revolution.
All that to say that it took that trip to Cuba for me to realize that The Beatles were larger than life, a true global phenomenon. Good luck finding a corner of God’s green earth where a goat farmer isn’t humming Love Me Do.
Still, it took seeing Paul McCartney in concert this summer to realize that I’d undersold The Beatles my whole life. I always said that the Stones were badder, bluesier, ballsier, and obviously better.
I was wrong.
They’re two bands from the same era, and obviously there are similar influences, but they are completely different. After 20 years of ignorance, I can now open my mind and heart to both, and never again blindly just to one over the other.
I bought The Beatles box set last week. The entire discography, remixed in stereo. Every song from their whole career, beautifully packaged, thorough liner notes, even “making of” DVD’s for each album. It could’ve come in a plastic bag from Provigo though. The music speaks for itself.
I’ve now gone through the entire discography twice, the later albums a few more, and Let it Be, Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper, the White Album, and Revolver have even made it to the car with me. Needless to say, I’ve listened to very little else in the last week.
For the first listening party, my friend Grody came over to my place for a marathon music session. Grody and I have indulged each other’s musical geekiness since high school, and is probably the friend I’ve seen the most shows with. Neither of us are musicians, but we know our stuff and we know what we like. The last time we had one of these evenings was when Led Zeppelin released How The West Was Won.
And with a “1,2,3,4” I Saw Her Standing There was playing, and we were off…..
The night went something like this: a track would play and we would sit there in silence. The song would end, and Grody and I would share a look we’ve only ever shared at concerts. “Did you hear that?” “It’s so different!” “It’s like a new version!” How The West Was Won was getting its ass kicked.
From the start of Please Please Me to the end of Past Masters, you can really hear the sound quality differences. Everything sounds much fuller and has a much richer quality. On a good sound system, and with your eyes closed, you get a feeling that the music is being played live in the room.
I hate to keep going back to the obvious, but damn The Beatles were good. All of them. Even Ringo. One of the knocks I’ve always heard about The Beatles was that Ringo wasn’t a good drummer. When re-mastered in stereo, you can really hear his genius. More than ever, the drums really pop out at you…some beautiful fills, and some really great beats.
Listening to it in one shot really gives you a feel for how prolific the songwriting was. So many styles, so many songs, and most amazingly, is how quickly they turned out albums. Basically everything was released in a seven-year period that started nearly 50 years ago!
And that is the heart of the melt. The Beatles changed the way music was made, listened to, and appreciated. Hearing it all at once, and with the best sound possible, is more than a music lover's dream. It's magical.
The Beatles Box Set gets my Nigel Tufnell “Turn it up to 11” Seal of Approval”.Turn it up, dance all night, and try to wipe the smile off your face. It’s not going to happen.
Here are my ‘must listen’ tracks off of each album. There are many other amazing songs to check out, but these are all ones that I felt like I was hearing for the first time.
Please Please Me – Twist and Shout –
With The Beatles – I Wanna be Your Man
A Hard Day’s Night – Can’t Buy Me Love
Beatles For Sale – Rock N’ Roll Music
Help! – Yesterday
Rubber Soul – Drive My Car
Revolver – Got To Get You Into My Life
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – A Day in The Life
Magical Mystery Tour – Baby You’re a Rich Man
White Album Disc 1 – Back In the USSR
White Album Disc 2 – Helter Skelter
Yellow Submarine – All You Need Is Love
Abbey Road – Here Comes The Sun
Let it Be – Dig a Pony
Past Masters Disc 1 – Sie Liebt Dich (for Scott Saxon)
Past Masters Disc 2 – Hey Jude
I’m going to get back to my roots now. If anyone needs me I’ll be grooving to Exile on Main Street and Day for Night.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Last summer, in the name of rock n’ roll, my mom and I jumped in the car and went to Quebec City to see the free Paul McCartney show at the Plains of Abraham.
Arriving at the Plains, people as far as the eye could see, I could see that mom’s Andre Dawson-esque knees weren’t doing her well. As much as I wanted to stay, it was impossible.
One sprained knee and one disappointed son later, we’re driving back to Montreal. Zooming along the highway, mom makes a promise. “If he tours again, anywhere in the world, we’re there” she said, adding one major caveat. “As long as there are seats.”
It was a deal. I heard on the news that McCartney was playing Halifax this summer. I checked the dates on the tour, and got two tickets to see Paul with my mom in August in Boston.
At Fenway Park.
I’ve seen two Sox games at Fenway, and the Stones a few years back. It’s a magical place, so rich in history. It’s also the closest ballpark to Montreal. Look it up on Google; in no traffic you can get to Fenway about 20 minutes earlier than if you’re driving to Skydome. Parents, take your kids. Just don’t let them grow up to be Red Sox fans.
I knew we had good seats, but only when we got in to the park did I realize just how special the day would be. We were in the 15th row, which placed the seats in left center field…
I was a kid in a candy store. With hours to spare before the show, I wandered every piece of the field that I could get to…Touched the Green Monster, hugged Pesky’s Pole, I even scooped some dirt from the fair territory down the left field line and from the warning track by the bullpen. The entire field was covered with some sort of hard plastic, leaving my desire to swipe a few blades of grass nearly impossible. That is until a sympathetic security guard by the soundboard (the one part of the field that was still exposed) told me to pretend like I was tying my shoe and to not take too much.
I finally took my seat for the opening act, the band du jour from Brooklyn, MGMT. Talk about a tough gig. Sure, their music was good, but how do you not stare at your watch the whole time when you know that with the hour you’ll be hearing Beatles songs?
So MGMT ended, and after about 15 minutes, Paul and his band just walked on stage, pick up their instruments, and bust into Drive My Car. No explosions, no flashy lights. From the get go, he let the music speak for itself.
And so it went. Hit after hit, sing along after sing along. Never have I seen such a joyous crowd. Highlights were too many to mention, but “Something” on the Ukulele and “A Day in the Life” morphing into “Give Peace a Chance” were definite standouts. And “Back in the USSR” sure got my mom up and dancing.
I’m amazed (maybe?) that he’s still got it. Sure there might be some neck flab that wasn’t there when he was doing jail time in Japan, but his chops are as good as ever. The man’s “whoooos” and “heeeeees” still sound like they did on Abbey Road, an album that turned 40 years old last week.
The show's magic moment occurred when McCartney played “Hey Jude”. After an emotional “Let it Be” and a rollicking “Live and Let Die”, Sir Paul played the one that everyone was waiting for.
As the lights came on for the endless “Na Na Na Na’s”, I turned around to see 35,000 Fenway faithful screaming their lungs out, sheer elation on their faces. I was standing in left field, seeing Fenway packed to the rafters, and this amazing feeling rushed over me. It was part ‘holy shit I’m hearing one of my favorite songs of all time and it’s not a letdown’, and part ‘wow I could totally throw a bullet to Varitek from here’. Even when basking in the glow of a Beatle, baseball is never too far away.
01. Drive my Car
03. Only mama knows
04. Flaming Pie
05. Got to get you into my life
06. Let me roll it/foxy lady
08. Long and winding road
09. My Love
11. Here today
12. Dance tonight
13. Calico skies
14. Mrs Vanderbilt
15. Eleanor Rigby
16. Sing the Changes
17. Band on the run
18. Back in the USSR
19. I'm Down
21. I've got a feeling
22. Paperback writer
23. A day in the life/give peace a chance
24. Let it be
25. Live and Let die
26. Hey Jude
28. Lady Madonna
29. I saw her standing there
31. Helter Skelter
32. Get Back
33. Sgt Pepper's reprise/ The end
Monday, August 10, 2009
Why is it that as soon as you cross a any border out of Quebec musical tastes change?I have seen my favourite bands come close to Montreal but stop just short . East , West , South .Music is the same everywhere...except in Quebec.Once again I had to leave "La Belle Province" to be amongst the +10,000 people at the Ottawa Blues Festival to experience the familiar sounds of Lynyrd SkynyrdWe took the kids as well.The first thing they noticed upon arrival was the giant blow up Molson Canadian beer can.I had to explain to them that we cant get this beer easily in Quebec because it says Canadian and has a Maple leaf on it.Of course the response back was "Why? " When you start explaining "why" it sounds so f...... ridiculous!!On the same night just a few hundred yards away , Ludacris was playing.Imagine this . A Ludracis crowd bumping into the hillbilly crowd of Skynyrd...and no incidents !!Poor planning also had the Drive By Truckers taking a stage just 15 minutes before Skynyrd took their stage. Halfway through the Truckers' set half the people left to come watch SkynyrdMidway through the Skynyrd set they dedicated one of their songs (Simple Man) to all the "Canadian troops and their families". A huge roar came over the crowd for this classy gesture.Now imagine what might have happened here ?At this point I realized just how sad we are to even accept this way of the land .National Anthems get booed here.Lettering on signs have to be bigger in French.The language police pops up from time to time to catch you,!!We cant get Molson Canadian here. (Molson... a family from Montreal ???)I live in a town where the Mayor changes the name of Canada day because he did not want to offend the good people that did not get a St Jean Baptiste day in Dollard.People don't always have the choice as to what language their children are taught in schools.You cant get government forms in English .There is actually a task force that will drive around the city on St Jean Baptiste day and warn you if they see a car in the parking lot of certain businesses. I know this first handDon't get me wrong I love the French . I have always said they are the most passionate people I know . Its the politicians and the separatist's I cant stand...you know the type .The ones that wear the American flag on their shirts before a Canadian FlagI am a proud Canadian and come to think of it, I would rather my musical heroes don't come to Quebec. Sad to say but until this shit stops I would travel across a border.