Sunday, October 26, 2008

Catching Up On Concert Reports!

What? You thought maybe I stopped going to concerts? No, not likely. But with the general busy nature of the end of summer, vacation (two weeks motorcycling in the southeast U.S.!), and changing jobs (yikes! stress city!) I fell behind in my concert reports. Here's a quick catch up post, with a brief run through of the last four shows Patti and I attended. Probably no surprise, but all four of these shows were at our favorite local venue, Londonderry's own Tupelo Music Hall:

  • Suzanne Vega - Thursday, August 14, 2008
  • Arlo Guthrie - Monday, August 25, 2008
  • Hot Tuna - Sunday, September 7, 2008
  • Willy Porter - Saturday, October 26, 2008

Suzanne Vega
Suzanne was touring in a trio format, with bass and drums. They never got the sound quite right, or at least to my liking, as I would have preferred Suzanne's vocals more up front. Her lyrics are intricate and intense, and I prefer not to have to fight past the instruments to concentrate on them. It did get better towards the latter half of the show, though. Particular highlights include the ever fascinating "Queen and the Soldier" and the heart-breaking "Luka". There are excellent live versions of both of these songs up on YouTube; if you aren't familiar with Suzanne, I highly recommend you spending ten minutes to watch these two songs: "Queen and the Soldier" and "Luka".

Arlo Guthrie
Arlo was touring with his son, Abe, on keyboards, and grandson, Krishna, on drums. I can't help but think of the importance of the Guthrie family on American music whenever I see or hear Arlo - would Bob Dylan be possible without Woody Guthrie? And as important as Woody is to our musical heritage, Arlo himself is now a legend - from his performance at Woodstock ("Coming into Los Angeles"), to "Alice's Restaurant", to his hit with Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans", to his collaborations with Pete Seeger, and more. Arlo is humorous, and thoughtful, and in complete command of the stage and the audience, and every moment of his concerts is a special experience. I was particularly moved when they sung two of Woody's songs; right in front of me in flesh and spirit were four generations singing "This Land is Your Land" and "My Peace". I wonder, do they still teach "This Land is Your Land" in kindergarten in the U.S.?

Hot Tuna
From one musical legend to another. Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen are both in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as members of Jefferson Airplane. This year Jack and Jorma are celebrating fifty years of playing together; this is simply incredible. Fifty years! This was an acoustic Hot Tuna show, my favorite variant of Jack and Jorma, with Jack on bass, Jorma on acoustic guitar, and Barry Mitterhoff on mandolin. Like most shows at the Tupelo, Patti and I were right up front; I brought along a camera this night, and here's the view from our front row seats:

Hot Tuna at Tupelo Music Hall

Willy Porter
I was unfamiliar with Willy Porter, but Tupelo owner Scott Hayward has raved so much about his shows that we had to see him this time around. We weren't disappointed. Willy is often described as a "contemporary American folk musician" (Wikipedia), but that really doesn't do him justice. But he is hard to pin down. At times he reminded me very much of Martin Sexton (powerful vocals), at other times Todd Snider (slacker/stoner humor, perhaps?), and at other times I was struck by his guitar chops. Speaking of guitar, Willy played both a six-string and a nine-string; Nine-string? I'm used to see six- and twelve-strings, but I'm not sure I've ever seen a nine-string before. Willy clearly has a following - it was obvious that about half of the 200 or so people in the audience were big Willy fans. Highlights including a song made up on the spots that incorporated phrases suggested by the audience (such as basset hound, skin rash, foreign policy experience, and a bunch of others) and a 15-minute wild encore that can best be described as starting with "It's a Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood" (you know, Mr. Roger's Neighborhood!) and then morphing it with an acid trip of a wild neighborhood story. Willy was joined on a few songs by Natalia Zuckerman, and wow, she's got a gorgeous voice. The opening act was Gerry Putnam and Tom Pirozzoli (aka, the Putnam-Pirozzoli Guitar Duo) doing incredibly intricate guitar instrumentals ranging from their own compositions, to Pat Metheny ("Jaco"), to Beethoven ("Ode to Joy").

OK, that's a quick run through. Set lists for the Vega, Guthrie, and Hot Tuna shows follow. Sorry, I didn't write the set list for Willy Porter.

Suzanne Vega
Tupelo Music Hall
August 14, 2008
Rock In This Pocket
Frank and Ava
Heroes Go Down
Pornographers Dream
Fat Man and Dancing Girl
Left of Center
Blood Makes Noise
Queen and the Soldier
Marlena on the Wall
Ludlow Street
Tom's Diner

Small Blue Things

Arlo Guthrie
Tupelo Music Hall
August 25, 2008
Set 1:
Chilling of the Evening
In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree
In My Darkest Hour
St. James Infirmary
Cornbread Song (Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee)
Keys to the Highway
Motorcycle Song
(Woodstock story)
Coming Into Los Angeles
Green Green Rocky Road
Set 2:
Alice's Restaurant (18 minutes!)
When a Soldier Makes It Home
In Times Like These
Highway in the Wind
(Steve Goodman story)
City of New Orleans (Steve Goodman; Arlo solo, on piano)
This Land is Your Land (Woody Guthrie)
(Arlo's "tuning arrows" story, prompted by audience)
(Story about Woody Guthrie writing songs)
My Peace (Woody Guthrie)

Hot Tuna
Tupelo Music Hall
September 7, 2008
Early Show (6:30pm)
Search My Heart
Tom Cat Blues
I See The Light
Heart Temporary
Hesitation Blues
Sea Child
Nashville Blues
Preaching On The Old Camp Ground
I'll Let You Know Before I Leave (instrumental)
How Long Blues
99 Year Blues
San Francisco Bay Blues
Encore: Embryonic Journey