Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Patti Smith - 3 January 2003 (a flashback)

I found myself thinking today about the first time I saw Patti. January 2003. The 9:30 Club. And what a crazy, phenomenal show that was. So I looked up the setlist:

3 January 2003, 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, USA

Waiting Underground
Dead City
Kimberly (For Kimberly)
When Doves Cry
Redondo Beach
Beneath the Southern Cross
One Voice
Mickey’s Monkey
Strange Messenger
25th Floor
Don’t Say Nothing
Dancing Barefoot
Summer Cannibals
Paths That Cross (For Beverly)
Where Duty Calls
Not Fade Away
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
Pissing in a River

And then found my old review:

...the glorious primal energy of Patti Smith at full steam, belting encores through the 1 am 9:30 club smoke full-tilt rock-and-roll - Jumpin Jack Flash and Gloria - her version - brilliant not only for it's opening line "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine.." and it's fantasy sequence - shifting from a boring party to a dream about a girl (!) leaning on a parking meter outside the window - but for the way she teases you, playing with the van morrison chords and motown motifs "oooh she looks so good/oooooh she looks so fine/and i've got this crazy feeling /.. i'm gonna make her mine" .. until she breaks into the chorus, breaking out the letters - G, L, O, R, I - drawing them out I I I I I I I - until they become nonsense symbols.. and the band churning away beneath it all. Bacchus himself would be blown away..

It was wonderful to see her.. it took her a good 1/2 hour to get warmed up, but once she did (and we stood - as we did for the White Stripes a year ago - within 10 feet of the stage) she was charming and open and joyous. Giving. What impresses me most about her is her organic musicality - her sense that everything out there (although her musical vocabulary doesn't quite stretch back to Uncle Dave or Lonnie Johnson) is worth listening to - integrating smokey robinson and the MC5 and Television to the Rolling Stones and stream of consciousness poetry (that only works out loud). Its theatrical. Its visceral. It's cereberal. And theres not much out there that combines all three at the same time (unless of course you're talking about the RTR, but thats an entirely different plane)..

But I still drove 30 Hours

After seeing Kanye a few weeks ago, I finally started to dig deep into Pablo. I know. It took long enough. But I'm still adjusting to albums that exist only as streams. As ultralight beams. And, at first it was only on Tidal. But it's on Spotify now. And I can plug my laptop into my stereo and stream it over my speakers. Windows open. Throwing Kanye out into the general rainbow stream of cursing and music and laughing of North Trinidad.

And there's a lot to unpack. But for now, I'm caught in the slipstream of 30 Hours. Apparently it was added late - after the big Madison Square Garden unveiling. Almost as a bonus track, a toss-off. And in a way it is.

But it's so much more. It's that slow, easy, effortless series of highly specific images (Doubletree / Waffle house / St. Louis to Chicago) - that somehow become universal - that's captivating. And then the long outro. The phone call. The casualness, the ease, the smoothness. It's like White Dress. A world away from the reality shows and illusions and games. Or maybe it's not - it just feels real.

Friday, September 16, 2016

We on a Ultralight Beam - Kanye - Verizon Center - September 8

We on a ultralight beam
This is a god dream
This is everything

Ultralight beams..

A photo posted by Ben (@lonesomeace) on

Words. It's been a week and I still have the words rolling around in my head. The sound. The sheer vibrating presence. The energy.

I saw the Yeezus tour with Ben E. in November 2013 - tucked in the very top row of a deep distant corner of the Verizon Center. It was like watching a play through a telescope. But oh those songs. The way that album cut through as I wandered those Paris streets that summer of 2013. It always takes me back to soft rain and wide boulevards and a sort of visceral liminality. And what I most remember from that show were the rants - 10-15 minutes at a time. About shoes. About his genius. And how they threw off the rhythm of the music.

Now a little under two years later I was back. Spur-of-the-moment stubhub ticket and this time I was towards the bottom of the 400 level. I got there early and let the energy build. Bought a t-shirt. The place slowly filled up, and promptly at 9:30p, the lights went down and he was there. Floating above the crowd on the floor on a small industrial rusted metal stage the color of Richard Serra steel. And as I looked closer,I finally noticed there was a wire bolted to the center of his stage that attached to the back of his shirt. He was tethered. Floating. Pacing. Sometimes leaning out over the edge - straining. Reaching.

The songs were mostly Pablo throughout - but particularly at the beginning. That great verse from Schoolboy Q's That Part. Some old hits - Mercy, Tell Me Nothing. And then he hit Power. And after the first verse stopped short. Cut the music. And talked, earnestly, about how much the words of the song meant to him - right now, in this moment. How he needed to hear this song. How it was for him. And when he launched in again, it was pure energy. The crowd feeding it back to him. Then a killer Blood on the Leaves - the heart of Yeezus, that hook - floating.

The sound was fuzzy at first, but quickly got better. And to be in a huge venue, with everyone in the whole place knowing every word to each song, was simply exhilarating. He was there, real, present. Trapped on his floating island. The kids moshing below him. In control and controlled. Fighting to be free.

Towards the end he sang Only One - that ballad to his daughter he did with McCartney and Rhianna. And stopped again. And talked about how the song was actually written when he thought about his mom singing to him. From heaven. Which led to a beautiful ramble about color and heaven and his mother and life...

And he then finished with a run of hits that had us all dancing in aisles - Gold Digger- Touch the Sky- All of the Lights - Good Life - Stronger. By the end, as the choir in Ultralight Beam soared, the stage floated away - Kanye disappearing in a beam of light. And I was almost in tears. Moved. Touched. Transported. In a way I haven't been by a show in a very, very long time..

Up next - Jenny Lewis @ Lincoln on Sunday night; Okkervil River @ 9:30 Club on Monday. Sturgill in early October at DAR. Good times. Indeed.