Posts Tagged ‘Live Concert Review’

Too Far Gone

March 31, 2009

The band is just about to get started, so throw the switch, it’s rock and roll time.

Gord Downie

Over the Neptune

It’s been awhile since I reviewed a CBC Radio 2 Concert on Demand, so I thought I’d take some time to check out Gord Downie‘s recent performance with The Sadies. This show promises to be a mixture of tunes from a variety of sources.  Gord Downie is well known as the frontman of Canadian icons The Tragically Hip. The Sadies are a well traveled alt-country act.  They are probably best known for backing up Neko Case, whose recent work has garnered critical and popular acclaim.  Thanks to a very nice commenter I now know that this show was part of a longer deal on a program called Fuse. The show took place in Ottawa, at the Studio 40 Broadcasting Centre. Without further ado, on to the show!

The show kicks off with Gord Downie’s Over the Neptune. This is a very short little song that gets us warmed up for what’s to come.  Already though the energy is apparent.

The next song begins before the previous one even ends.  This is a cover of Robert Pollard’s Figment.  He is known for leading Guided By Voices for over 20 years, and being one of the most prolific songwriters of the last couple of decades.  Downie sounds a lot more raspy than im used to so far, but that could be a function of the song.  If you are used to The Sadies as Neko Cases band then this absolute bit of rocking will be a little surprising.  The guitars are masterful, and the outro bit of this song is fantastic.

The group immediately shows its Canadian allegencies by playing Too Far Gone by the immortal Neil Young. I think the CBC has a rule that if you play one of their recorded concerts you have to cover Neil Young, since his songs have shown up in previous installments.  This is a fun little cover, and to hear Downie, who is one of Canada’s most distinctive voices, taking on Neil Young’s melody is quite nice.  Once again we are treated to a nice little solo. It’s reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and I like that.  Neil Young is actually the ideal song writer for The Sadies, because he was alt-country before it had a name.

The First Inquisition is a Sadies’ tune.  I’d quote some lyrics for you, but Downie is usually difficult to comprehend when he sings live.  Should you live for yourself, or die in his name. If you are familiar with surf music then you have probably heard a lot of the mushy guitar tone from this show.  The use of distortion and reverb create a guitar sound that combines dirty water with a little sinkholes.

This whole show is being played up tempo, but Flash, another Sadies’ song, cranks the speed up even more.  The solo is almost too fast to hear, but still fits into this bluesy country song.  The show has the feel of a high school dance or friend’s basement show.  I don’t mean that the quality is bad, in fact the musicianship is great. It’s that this doesn’t feel slick and commercial, rather it could be a big party for a few friends on a Saturday night.  It’s hard to argue with fun like that.  Every musician gets a moment or two to shine and the crowd gets to rock along.

Without even checking I instantly know the next song is by Johnny Cash.  Downie is doing is best impression, and the distinctive guitar and bass parts (you know the rhythm that seems to dominate every Cash song) is on full display.

Fire In The Hole starts out like a U2 song with generous bits of echoed guitar.  Downie, who has been on from the word go, is in his element here.  Another great solo, a little understated but still grand, leads to a musical breakdown around the middle of the song.  I bet the crowd left this show feeling energized and exhausted all at once.  There is no let down through the first 7 songs I’ve reviewed.

Almost on cue we get a mellower track.  A cover of Roky Erickson’s I have Always Been Here Before, is a bit obscure for me.  The song is only a few years old, but the man has been making music on and off for 40 years.   Til the devil’s clock strikes midnight. This seems like a song that grows out of a lifetime of ups and downs during turbulent personal and societal times.

What better way to finish a mostly country-ish set then to pull out The StoogesSearch and Destroy.  No other song in the online version of this set even remotely matches this one.  It is punk through and through.  Somebody gotta save my soul.

This concert quickly ends almost as soon as it begins.  In less than half an hour Gord Downie and The Sadies have gone from Neil Young to Iggy Pop without missing a beat or even slowing down for a drink.  This is one show that is definitely worth a listen.  Gord Downie has been increasingly branching out in recent years with much success, and The Sadies are an accomplished backing band.  In some ways the show is a reminder of how music used to be in clubs and bars all over the Western world. Musical men with big personalities like Ronnie Hawkins put together highly talented backing groups to belt out their own work as well as recognizable covers for an audience that loved a good time. You will get that and more with this recording.

What’s That You Say?

December 22, 2008

Dave laying down a sweet solo

Dave laying down a sweet solo

Today’s image depicts my good friend Dave recording the solo at the end of NOTLD. Don’t forget to check out Dave’s photography blog for better pictures than this one.

I have often referred to the music of bands such as The Tragically Hip as cold arena music.  For me, music often creates visual images in my mind, which are associated with specific life experiences.  I’m not sure why I experience music this way, but it’s always been like that. I guess it is partly related to movies and television, because they create connections between music and activity.  I doubt our ancestors experienced music in the same way.

Why am I talking about this? Well one artist whose music has created a vast array of mental images for me is Mr. Bruce Cockburn. I’ve talked about him on here before and today I am again. Specifically, I want to mention the little snippet of a concert that appeared on the CBC Radio 2 Live Concert podcast back in March.  They took a few songs from a set he played out in Vancouver.  He kicks off the set with Last Night of the World, a song I dearly love.  Only could Bruce Cockburn make the end of the world seem like one last great romantic evening for the ages.  I can imagine him pulling out his guitar for a last tune as the cities burn to the ground.

Please bear in mind that I’ve listened to this concert around 15 times, so I’m familiar with each moment.  Before this concert I was unaware of Bruce’s great sense of humour.  He has some great stories to tell. I’d love to have him on the podcast to just chat about his 40+ years as a musician and social advocate.  Who knew someone offered him a chance to be a gun runner? I didn’t. This amazing story (I won’t totally spoil it for you) leads to a song that I had not heard before the podcast.  In typical fashion there is so much going on with the guitar that it blows your mind. I believe it was Jackson Browne who said he believed that Bruce Cockburn was the kind of musician who used all sorts of effects to create his complex sounds, and was amazed when he saw him alone with an acoustic guitar playing the same compositions.  It is the rare talent who can write beautiful songs that require large amounts of guitar playing talent and retain a strong vocal melody. When you also consider that his lyrics are poetic and prophetic, you can’t help but conisder Bruce Cockburn among the foremost musicians/composers of the last 40 years. See you tomorrow, see you tomorrow, see you tomorrow, see you tomorrow…

Don’t the hours grow shorter as the days go by, you never get to stop and open your eyes, one day your waiting for the sky to fall, and next your dazzled by the beauty of it all. Yesterday I mentioned my definition of the perfect love song, and this one fits the bill.  The guitar is beautiful, the melody is moving, and the lyrics are passionate.  Got to kick at the darkness til it bleeds daylight…an inspirational thought indeed.

Take some time right now to log into iTunes, search for CBC Radio 2, subcribe to the Live podcast, scroll down and download this concert.  There are two other high quality artists on this particular episode so you can listen to them too, but please at least scroll to the middle to hear Bruce.

Bruce graces us with an acoustic version of End of All Rivers that sounds as if it could feature three guitars. But it’s just him.  Amazing is really the only word for it.  The song itself does invoke images of rivers in the Canadian wilderness. For me at least.  I think because our country is so beautiful, music is easily inspired by it, and easily invokes it. I remember watching Bruce on the Live 8 concert. I think a lot of the crowd was a bit confused by who he was.  Such a shame!

Speaking of young people knowing his music, here is a song that predates me.  It is also an all time favourite of myself and many other people.  Wondering Where the Lions Are is a classic song, Canadian or otherwise.  Much like Chris Martin, Bruce invokes the crowds involvement.  and I’m thinking bout eternity, some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me. I’ll leave it to the Bruce Cockburn experts to explain this song. For now I’ll just say that if you don’t know this song you better get downloading, shopping, or doing whatever it takes to hear it. Stop missing out on a sonic adventure!

It’s well known that I love Bruce Cockburn’s music. Now it’s your chance to love it to. For free, thanks to the miracle that is the podcast. Go, enjoy, see ya tomorrow.