The lights turned on and the curtain fell down,
And when it was over it felt like a dream,
They stood at the stage door and begged for a scream,
The agents had paid for the black limousine
That waited outside in the rain.
Did you see them, did you see them?
Buffalo Springfield's 'Broken Arrow' (written by Neil Young)
Cat Eldridge, Editor in Chief, speaking. Starting this week, we are moving to a biweekly schedule. The next issue of Green Man will the 13th of March. Each edition of What's New will now be up for a full two weeks. Does this mean less new material for you to read? Not at all. It simply means that our editors and proofers will have more time to work on each issue.
27th of February, 2005
Jack Merry here. I've been thinking 'bout concerts that I've seen over the years; John O'Regan, our staffer who's also a crack journalist for the likes of Irish Music Magazine, will very soon be reviewing -- rather fittingly for an Irishman -- both the new Horslips release and the Thin Lizzy concert he saw recently, so I moseyed down to the Pub late one evening when I expected many of our staffers to be there. Over a few rounds, I asked some of them what their favourite concert memories were.
Brigid Dubhthach, his wife, speaking. He's a musician. Going down to Pub for a few rounds is for a musician akin to bears shitting in the woods. They just do it. I still love him.
Kelly Sedinger leads off the Pub conversation with a story that Berlioz would've appreciated: 'I attended a concert of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at which Dvorak's 'New World' Symphony was on the program. The second movement of that symphony is the 'slow' movement, with the gorgeous melody later immortalized as the faux-spiritual 'Goin' Home', and much of that movement is very soft and quiet. Unfortunately, the audience that night must have included a convention of bronchitis sufferers, from the sheer volume of coughing and throat lozenge-unwrapping that went on during this movement. (If you've ever been in a real concert hall, you know that a single cough can be heard pretty much anywhere in the auditorium.) Finally, when the second movement had come to an end, the conductor -- Semyon Bychkov -- turned to the audience and proceeded to lecture them on how what is being performed is not mere entertainment but art, and that all the coughing signifies a lack of respect. When he decided that he had the audience sufficiently cowed, Bychkov turned back to the orchestra -- but then turned to the audience again, this time to say: 'For those of you who missed the second movement the first time we played it, we shall now play it again.' And this they did. After the concert, I went backstage to get Maestro Bychkov's autograph. I found him in his Green Room, sitting on a couch and smoking.'
Robert Tilendis chimes in with two classical music concerts he remembers as particularly memorable: 'The first that comes to mind is at Orchestra Hall in the late 60s -- the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under its Acting Music Director (whose name, after all these years, I've forgotten -- this was in the days before Sir George Solti) turned out a perfect Brahms First Symphony, at least to my mind. I've always thought that most conductors tried to race through the first movement, but this one was flawless, with all the majesty and passion of which Brahms is capable. I almost fell out of the gallery at the end (yes, the prototypical starving student, who, incidentally, is not good with heights) jumping up to applaud. Fortunately, a friend had the seat behind me and kept me from going over the rail -- it's a long drop to the main floor.
Another, from roughly the same time period, happened at the Ravinia Festival. The program was to have been Christa Ludwig and Walter Berry doing Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, but Berry turned up with a sore throat. Ludwig did Die Kindertotenlieder, and I had seats at fourth row center. It was beyond my ability to describe -- as though she were singing for me and only me. It was heart-wrenching and completely absorbing. When the piece ended, no one moved for what seemed like eternity -- it was that riveting. Then, of course, the pavilion went nuts.'
Kim Bates says 'One of the best shows I ever saw was a warm night at the Winnipeg Folk Festival when Richard Thompson came on, and the Northern lights promptly came up and added a spectacular light show to his solo act. And my first time up there, Oysterband put on a great show at about 2 in the morning -- they really rocked. That was in the Deserters era. I've got more, but you'll have to give me a day or so to add to that. But it's why I love the festival -- when the weather is right and the crowd is there, it's really magical. Or it can be. You're sitting there on your blanket, perhaps after dancing in the mud (with its peculiar smell) and some performer will come out onto the stage and just blow you away when you think you're done for the evening. It's wonderful.
The second time Danu played the Winnipeg folk Festival, we were absolutely too tired to stay until the end, and my companion was not fond of the lineup in the parking lot. So we took off, but just as we turned the corner from the Festival Lane to the South Highway on our way to the Provincial Campground, we realized we could hear the band perfectly, and that the mist was coming up off the meadow underneath a full moon. We pulled over and listened to the rest of their set. Magic.'
David Kidney has a recent memory to share: 'In 2004 I saw some outstanding concerts, Eliza Gilkyson, Tom Russell, Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, but node made quite the impression that Ron Sexsmith did. When I first heard Ron Sexsmith I didn't like him. I wanted to. All the people I admired liked him... raved about him. But to my ears he sounded like Tim Hard in, mixed through those musicians who admired him so... McCartney, Elvis Costello... there were echoes of all of them in his songs, and voice. Then the Retriever album came out and things changed. He clicked. I have played that album more then any new recording I've heard in years. Then he toured Southern Ontario. We bought tickets to see him in the Studio Theatre of Hamilton Place. An intimate, and cozy setting. It was the first show of the Canadian Tour, and he warned that his voice was a little rough as he was just getting over a cold. He was personable, friendly, and whatever voice problems he thought he was experiencing...well...he sounded better live than on disc. His band is tight, and although they don't play on the recorded versions...they certainly own the tunes. They worked their way through much of the Retriever a material, and interspersed many of his best songs from the rest of his albums. There was even a surprise or two. A Jackie DeShannon tune. A month and a half later we saw him again, on the last day of the tour in St. Catherines. Again an intimate setting, and this time in front of a loving home crowd. His grade one teacher sat in front of us. He played a similarly constructed set, but this time adding a rendition of an Elton John song, and a new totally unplugged song, for which he and the band stepped over the monitors, to the front of the stage and just depended on their own skill, and the gorgeous acoustics of the theatre to carry the sound to the audience. Tremendous. The best concert experience I had this year? Ron Sexsmith and Band.'
Donna Bird comments 'I worked as a radio disk jockey at college and commercial stations from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, so I got to attend a LOT of live shows with complimentary passes AND great seats! I also followed the common practice of that time, using various recreational substances to enhance my concernt-going experiences. So, it's HARD to find one clear memory of a show. But here goes... Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, New York -- one of those outdoor amphitheaters with a roof to protect you from rain but open on the sides, so you could smell and hear the night around you---and occasionally get bitten by the local mosquitoes. I went to see Peter Gabriel with my friend Adrian, a singer in a local rock band. I had been a fan of Peter since his days in Genesis, and routinely bought his solo albums. This was the U.S. tour to support 'Security,' which was released in fall 1982. Since the Saratoga concert series happened during the summer months, I figure it would have been 1983. Tony Levin was in the band, playing his distinctive stick bass -- you couldn't miss that. I had seen Tony with King Crimson a couple of years earlier. The piece I remember most clearly from this show was 'Lay Your Hands on Me.' Peter got the audience singing that refrain. He gestured to us to raise our hands over our heads, which we did. Then, he dove into the crowd and rode belly down over our outstretched arms. He passed literally right over us. We almost fainted. It was one of the most powerful and beautiful collective experiences I've ever had.'
Lars Nilsson notes 'While in London in the summer of 1977 I went to the now defunct Southwark Folk Festival and for the first time I saw Martin Carthy in action. The festival was held in a teacher's training college and the evening ended with Martin performing in the middle of the floor in an assembly room. We were just over a hundred sitting on the floor in circles around him. No stage, no microphones, no spectacular lights, just a man, his voice and his guitar. Pure magic. Do not expect me to tell you which songs he sang. I only remember a powerful 'The Famous Flower of Serving Men'. But I have been a fan ever since.'
Cat Eldridge says his favourite concert memories all involve various Nordic groups he's seen: '...seeing Vasen perform at Bowdoin College in Kresge Hall a few years back was simply amazing. The band was sans drummer who apparently doesn't travel outside of Sweden so the music was quietly Nordic in nature like a gentle snow falling...' Another concert that he remembers fondly was 'Swedish group Frifot at the CCE here in Portland. Not nearly as quiet as Vasen was as Lena Willemark, the lead vocalist for them, has a voice that'd do a banshee proud! The crowd, almost all of Swedish ancestry, the women wearing traditional dress, and many speaking Swedish, were quite pleased at the traditional songs they did that cold winter evening.' A future concert memory he anticipates will be fondly remembered is the upcoming concert at CCE of Aly Bain and Ale Moller!
Gary Whitehouse waxes nostalgic: 'Concert memories ... I didn't realize until you asked the question that I have so many of them... ...the night Taj Mahal sat at the piano and played song after song for a dancing, swaying crowd in the park, long after the performance was officially supposed to end; the night I saw the Meat Puppets in 1994 at the height of their game, just before they disintegrated; the American Fiddle Festival one August at the Cuthbert Amphitheater in Eugene, which ended with BeauSoleil, Darrol Anger, Mike Marshall and Vassar Clements jamming before an ecstatically dancing crowd; John Doe, former frontman of X, in a solo acoustic performance in a tiny bar; Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men in that same bar, blowing all the fuses in a scorching version of 'Long White Cadillac'; Richard Thompson at the Aladdin Theater in 1996, playing a version of 'Put it There Pal' so full of fury and venom I feared for the people in the first few rows; and a gig aptly titled Fiddle Heaven in the North River Centre for the Performing Arts at the Celtic Colours festival in Cape Breton Island, featuring Liz Carrol, Jerry Holland, Kyle MacNeil and Tove de Fries -- a converted church lit entirely by candles and packed to the rafters with adoring fans -- followed by yet more fiddling and dancing in a nearby community hall. ...There are many more, many more, but neither of us has all day 'n' night.
Joel Boyce has fond memories of a Canadian group and their antics: 'The Headstones came to town some three years ago. This was just after releasing their Greatest Fits album. I recall at one point the lead singer cleared out his nose by plugging one nostril and spraying snot all over the stage and all the people that were nearby. It was a great show. They're awesome live.' A charming group I see!
Chris White has a choice memory: 'Fall of 1969, the gym of Drew University in Madison, NJ. Tim Buckley was touring following the release of Blue Afternoon. I was a big fan. So were loads of self consciously 'sensitive' sorts. Buckley had been known for his poignant singing style and lyrics. He played acoustic guitar, both six and twelve string. Years later it would be revealed how, during the preceding year, his creative arc had made a giant leap his folky beginnings to his unique, jazzier, funkier, mature style. But the audience only had released albums to go on and were expecting a sensitive folky. And there was Tim Buckley on stage with the likes of Ruth Underwood and Buzzy Feiten from Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention along with Lee Underwood on electric guitar. The material was loud and funky and jazzy and wild. Buckley yowled and cried and whispered as much as he sang sensitive songs of love and loss. Sensing the restive nature of the crowd, Buckley started to talk to the audience. He blended two of Ken Nordine's 'word jazz' pieces, 'Miss Jones' and 'Sit Down Shower' into a marvelously surreal tale. As he rambled on, a good sized minority of the audience walked out while many of us moved to better seats. Looking around at the end of this diversion Buckley said, 'Well, now that the math majors have left....' and stomped out the count with his engineer boot. The band responded and were off on one of the most amazing shows I've ever seen.'
Robert reminded us that there's more to live performances than just concerts: 'Speaking of which, even farther off to the side, and perhaps not strictly on point, many years ago the old Goodman Theater did a production of Henry V, Part Something-Or-Other, with live musicians on stage -- it was spectacular, sort of Harry Partch meets The Bard – the instruments were Partch-type invented things, largely percussion -- lots of cowbells and things that went tinkle and tat-tat-tat and boom-boom -- the music was original, and it was just amazing -- color, activity, abstraction, earthiness, great performances by actors and musicians, total theater: as though Barnum & Bailey had crashed the Stratford festival, and maybe what theater would be like if the Globe had been in Bali.'
Everything this outing is of a musical nature befitting the conversation we've been havin' here. Maria Nutick, our Book Editor, has selected a single book review of a musical nature, Tim Hoke, our Video Editor, has chosen a DVD you really will want to know about, Liz Milner, our Live Performances Editor, has picked an interesting concert review, and Kim Bates, our Music Editor, has rounded up a tasty selection of omnibuses of recordings that our staffers wrote up for your reading pleasure. So let's get started...
Gary Whitehouse reviews three books about folk music: 'The father-and-son team of John and Alan Lomax played a pivotal role in
preserving American folk songs at a time when they may have stood in
danger of being supplanted by recorded popular music. And they played the
role of impresarios and facilitators in helping bring the songs of African
American performers to a wider audience.
The two Lomax books here (American Ballads and Folk Songs and Our Singing Country -- Folk Songs and Ballads) are records of the role that they played, and more than that, they're an immense treasure trove of American song, from which modern performers continue to draw inspiration...To have these two books, and John Work's American Negro Songs, back in print, is an occasion for celebration. One has but to thumb through any one of these tree volumes to find the roots, trunks and branches of all manner of American music that's still being made today.'
Master Whitehouse is up again, with a DVD: 'It's such a pleasure when a concert DVD is done right, and this one is an
excellent example of the potential of this medium. Calexico is one of the most interesting bands performing right now, both aurally and visually, and World Drifts In captures the band in all its glory. Filmed during a festival at London's Barbican hall in November 2002, the Tucson alt-rockers put on quite a show.'
There are times when something magical happens between a performer and an audience. Time stands still and the world is suffused with new, unexpected energy. Vonnie Carts-Powell tells of such a time when she was 'dragged, protesting to see a show I had no interest in' and discovered 'something so new and so good…the music I'd always needed to hear.' Read her review of a life-changing performance by June Tabor and the Oysterband.
Greetings. David Kidney here, taking a break from painting my living room walls. My wife and I have finally decided to move from the warm wine colour of the past decade to a more neutral cappuccino colour. How trendy. We have NEVER had beige (I mean cappuccino) walls, ever. And the first coat didn't cover especially well. We'll see how it looks tomorrow. But for today, we have a handful of omni reviews to look at. Far more interesting than watching paint dry, I assure you.
Alistair Brown begins with a look at some Celtic music, each with its own shade of green. 'Here's a collection of six new folk music releases, all of which nod in the direction of traditional music. They do stretch the envelope a bit though, covering everything from traditional tunes from Connemara, Irish dance music with an infectious New England bounce, an exciting new take on old time music, high energy fiddling that crosses a number of boundaries, an engaging singer songwriter with a country sound but much more, and an album of Christmas standards played on hammered dulcimer.' Now, Connemara is home to the quarries from where a delightfully green marble is found. New England's green is deep and rich, the colour of the forest, and we all know the colour of the Christmas tree...for the rest...you'll need to read the article, and imagine for yourself.
Richard Condon continues the Celtic theme with a sampling of four CDs from various sources: (Scotland, Virginia -- via Wales) and Vermont -- via Seattle and New Hampshire). So, a touch of red, white & blue mixed with the blue and white of St. Andrew. 'There you have them: the juggernaut of Celtic music continues to roll and as well as the native practitioners there are performers of this form in all sorts of places (Germany, for example, has a thriving home-grown Celtic scene). For your reviewer, those who try to provide some added value rather than contenting themselves with a flawless rendition of traditional material are to be encouraged. If this music is going to flourish, it will have to develop and take account of the outside world, although this is not meant as an encouragement of some of the more outlandish fusions that crop up nowadays. The cyberpages of Green Man Review bear eloquent witness to the enormous popularity of Celtic music in our time, but like other forms that have thriven in my lifetime (skiffle, revivalist Dixieland, bossa nova) the bubble could burst.'
My own review of nine re-issued Kinks' albums has a distinct red-white and blue tinge about it. The colours of the Union Jack, flag of Britain, which is the homeland, and inspiration for the great Ray Davies. SPike and I had a bit of a conversation about the albums as we listened to them, and here's what we concluded. '...These re-issues from the 70s and 80s tell a tale of a band whose vision and ambition was always bigger than the music business could accommodate. There is such a wealth of material here...that another thousand words wouldn't begin to pay tribute to the overall quality and downright rackability of it. Start in the middle and work out to both ends. Or try getting into the theatrical material first and then progressing through the reawakening rockers. Or if you only want one album... well... I can't pick just one. You'd need at least five! The Kinks NEED to be in your record collection.
Yeah, mebbe five but ya gotta get the live one...One For The Road...it @#$%in' ROCKS!'
Next up is Peter Massey's review of three CDs by Brian Lupton. 'Brian is a well-known and respected singer, in and around Liverpool and Merseyside. As well as in folk clubs and pubs (mainly Irish), Brian can be seen at the Ashgove Folk Club, which he runs on a regular basis in Birkenhead. I have known Brian for more years than I care to remember and therefore I find it is surprising that this is his first venture into the studio as a solo artist. Previously he recorded an L.P on vinyl with Kinfolk, one of Merseyside's top folk groups in the 70's and 80's, now sadly disbanded. So why, I asked Brian, 3 CD's, more or less all at once? Brian explained that in compiling a list of songs for recording, he couldn't get below 40 or more that were important to him and were often requested by his fans. I should explain that Brian is also known as Bryan O'Ryan, this being his stage name when he takes his act out to do gigs in Pubs (mostly Irish) and therefore his material and the way he does it is slightly different to his folk club act.' As for colours? Lupton describes it himself with a version of 'Forty Shades of Green.'
Peter also contributes a review of four CDs by Show of Hands. 'Although pigeon holed as a folk act, S.O.H has moved on from the type of duo that might turn up at an acoustic sing-a-round or folk club, or one that doesn't use a P.A system. They have crossed the barrier and moved on to bigger venues. In fact the sound they produce might be described as more contemporary pop than folk. What ever it is, I like it, and I am sure you will do also. For the most part they don't use any drums, but make good and clever manipulative use of their own P.A system and sound engineer. Using a 'percussive' style of playing their guitars and other instruments fuses this works well. It makes them one of the best acts to catch in a live performance.' Colour? Pure gold!
'The most memorable concert of my life was one I had the pleasure to be involved with. Fortunately, my involvement was minimal so I had the opportunity to experience most of it from the audience's point of view. In the mid seventies, the Paul Winter Consort and the Yale Theater Orchestra collaborated for a series of concerts celebrating the one-hundredth birthday of American composer Charles Ives. I was a member of one of the sub groups, the West Redding Jews Harp Sextet, that performed only for 'Washington's Birthday'. Yes, the score was written for jews harps by Ives. The highlight of these performances (spanning about a three year period) was the one at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, on June 16, 1975, as we represented Connecticut in the Bicentennial Parade Of American Music. I'm sure Uncle Charlie was sitting in the back of the auditorium smiling and sneering at the scene.
Ives was a huge fan of parades and the aural cacophony they presented. The opening event for the concert mimicked the parade sensation by having the Consort and the Theater Orchestra (conducted by Ives scholar James Sinclair) playing a piece in the key of D major on stage while The Danbury Civil War Band (modeled after Ives' father's band) entered one door in the rear of the house playing in G major, and through the other rear door the Connecticut Rebels of '76 Fife and Drum Corps came marching in playing in Bb major. They all converged in the front of the hall, the two marching bands mingling in front of the stage, then after a few moments they continued to march out of the hall leaving the stage musicians alone still playing in D. No one ever missed a beat or a note. They kept playing their original tunes, never playing together. It was incredible. And that was just the beginning of the evening.
There cheers and the requisite jeers, even some bah-humbuggers leaving in the middle, all evening. For the finale, all the artists involved converged on the stage. Having been so inspired by Paul Winter through the process of these Ives concerts, the two marching bands left the stage and marched out to the lobby just as the other two theaters were letting out. They marched through and around the crowd, then spilled outside the Center and marched around the building and out of site. That part was completely spontaneous. The other theater crowds had no idea what hit them. I could probably write a book about my whole experience. Paul, James and Charles changed my musical life and Charlie still makes appearances now and then to say hello.'
So what's me favourite concert memory? Certainly seeing the Grateful Dead in the early 70s when Garcia could still sing and play his guitar well is among them, as was the performance by blues master Taj Mahal in a small club in the Big Smoke back in the 80s. It was just him with his fat Cuban cigar and a guitar, telling stories and playing songs well into the night. He was a gentleman, a born storyteller, and an amazin' musician that night! I was less than impressed with the Stones when I caught them live in the 80s -- all flash and not much heart to them by that point. It wasn't so much a bad performance as a tired one -- they all looked and acted like they'd rather be somewhere else. Even the Nazgul at their most wasted played better than the bleedin' Stones did on that night!
Robert pipes up to say he had a very different experience with the Stones: 'There was the Rolling Stones Star tour, for which a group of us copped a box (don't ask how, because I don't remember -- a friend of a friend sort of thing: someone came up with these incredible seats for the Stones). What's to be said? It was the Rolling Stones, live, in the 70s, with terrific seats. Mick Jagger kept moving. The audience kept moving. The stage kept moving. It was everything a rock concert should be.'
Now there was a concert by Róisín Dubh, a Thin Lizzy cover band I heard in Dublin in the 90s which had to be seen to be appreciated. Mine you, many a pint of Guinness helped that night!
More recently, seeing the Irish band Lunasa over a period of a decade has been interesting as I've gotten to see a band develop and grow as they become more confident in their abilities. They've come a long way judging from the boot Paul Brandon sent Green Man of a Brisbane concert they did. If you've got a chance, do see them perform!