Posts Tagged ‘Start!’

Sunday, Diane and I made our way to the Electric Factory on North 7th Street in Philly to see Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul. The general admission/standing-room only concert hall first opened its doors in 1994, yet it was my first time on its cement floor.

Steven and his 15-piece band, which includes a horn section and three backup singers, came on at 8:30pm and played for about two hours, delivering a solid 22-song set that worked best with the uptempo songs. The slower numbers, such as the doo-wop “City Weeps Tonight” and funky “Down and Out in New York City,” drowned beneath the din reverberating from the bar. It didn’t help that – as the picture below shows – we were far back from the stage. Also, the sound was trebly and dense, akin to sparkly sludge.

Still, it was a good show and night, though by the time I collapsed into bed it was technically early Monday morning. I slept through my 5:50am alarm, rolled out of bed about two hours later and hit the road minutes after that – which was when I learned of the mass shooting at the country music festival in Las Vegas.

Since 1983, I’ve attended concerts large and small, in hallowed halls and cruddy clubs, and there are literally only a handful that I wish I’d skipped – the Singer Who Must Not Be Named springs to mind, especially. That is to say, I rarely leave a show unhappy with anything other than the drive home. Diane’s cut from the same cloth.

We see concerts. It’s what we, in part, do.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re not out and about every night, week or even month, though sometimes it may seem that way; and spinning an LP, cranking a CD, or clicking play on the Pono Player or Apple Music can be just as wondrous an experience. As Tom Petty has been quoted as saying, “Music is probably the only real magic I have encountered in my life. There’s not some trick involved with it. It’s pure and it’s real. It moves, it heals, it communicates and does all these incredible things.”

Music may not be salvation, but it is God’s gift. No matter the style or genre, be it rock, pop, country, hip-hop, R&B, soul or blues, or any of the many sub-genres therein, whether it’s critically acclaimed or not, it serves a purpose larger than itself. It feeds the spirit. That such a secular communion was bloodied by someone with a gun? It breaks my heart.

And then the news of Tom Petty’s death came. I’ve been a fan – though not a hardcore fan – since “Refugee” and Damn the Torpedoes, and saw him and the Heartbreakers in concert at the Spectrum in 1990. (Look for an Of Concerts Past entry about it in the near future.) I’ve actually contemplated seeing him in the years since, but for one reason or another – usually venue – decided “next time.”

Perhaps because of all that, a show that I’d been anticipating for months – Paul Weller with Lucy Rose at the TLA on South Street (aka “the hippest street in town”) on Wednesday, October 4th, proved even better than expected. Paul Weller, of course, is a longtime favorite; Lucy Rose entered my life earlier this year by way of the Staves, and has quickly become someone whose music I adore. When she was added to the bill, months after I’d purchased our tickets, I knew a great night was going to be even greater. (At least, I hoped that.)

Now, the TLA has been around forever and a day, primarily as a movie theater but also as a playhouse; it wasn’t until 1988 that it began life as a concert venue. My first time there, I think, was in late 1982 to see Ciao! Manhattan – though it could have been earlier that year to see another esoteric film. The first time I saw a concert at the locale, however, came seven years later, when I took in the Indigo Girls on back-to-back nights. Back then, the venue was stellar, as it retained movie-style seats – you sat back, and the music washed over you. Somewhere along the way, however, the powers-that-be realized more money could be made by removing said seats, as bodies could be packed in, and it became primarily a standing room-only venue. Eventually, in the mid or late ‘90s, a balcony was added and…off the top of my head, the last show I remember seeing there was Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band in 1999.

Anyway, this night, we were in what’s called the “Crow’s Nest” – a VIP (more expensive) section that I imagine was added at some point in the 2000s or 2010s. It features a great view of the stage and, too, there are seats, which – given that I was still dragging from Sunday’s late night – were a necessity.

Lucy Rose, for her part, overcame a sea of indifferent Weller fans to deliver a sublime (if too-short) set of her stirring songs – as I tweeted her after she left the stage, she really needs to play a venue more geared toward singer-songwriters, such as the World Cafe Live.

Paul Weller hit the stage at 9pm and, over the course of 135 minutes and 30 songs, exemplified all things mod, rock and soul. Among the treats: two Jam classics (“Monday” and “Start!” from Sound Affects), three Style Council favorites (“My Ever Changing Moods,” “Have You Ever Had It Blue” and “Shout to the Top”), plenty from his solo years, such as the hypnotic “Above the Clouds” and “Wild Wood,” plus seven from his recent A Kind Revolution album, including the aching “Long Long Road” and contagious “Woo Sé Mama.”

After the main set, he and the band returned for five acoustic numbers that I assumed – given the time of night – would cap the concert. I was wrong. They then switched back to electric and…whoa! “These City Streets” from Saturns Pattern, “Peacock Suit” from Heavy Soul, the Jam’s “Start!,” “The Cranes Are Back” from A Kind Revolution and “The Changingman” from Wild Wood ended the night in tremendous fashion.

Here are three highlights:

In short, it was a great, great concert. Weller delivered blistering guitar solo after solo and raucous piano runs, his dual drummers pounded out propulsive rhythms, and the band as a whole – wow. Just wow. There were a few songs that I wasn’t familiar with in the moment, but it didn’t matter. The show washed away the heartache and heartbreak from a bad week, and renewed my spirit. He and his crack band gave us the beat and freed our souls…if only for a night.

And thank God for that.

Thursday night, I stumbled upon The Jam – About the Young Idea on Showtime OnDemand. It’s an excellent documentary about the English mod rock band that rose from the London suburbs in the late 1970s to become one of the biggest acts of that era in their home country. Wikipedia reports that they scored 18 consecutive Top 40 hits in the U.K., including four No. 1s; and also charted four Top 10 albums, including one – their last, The Gift – that hit the top spot in 1982.

They never broke through in the States for a variety of reasons. One reason: They tackled topical British concerns that just didn’t translate all that well to this side of the pond. Another: They sported thick British accents that made it a bit difficult to decipher the lyrics.

ringo_rsThat’s neither here nor there, however, for today’s Top 5. In April 1981, I was 15 years of age, a high-school sophomore and, thanks to my folks, a new subscriber to Rolling Stone. To say that it was appropriate that Ringo Starr, whose 40th birthday was the raison d’être for the article, graced the cover of the first issue I received is an understatement – I was (and remain) a huge Beatles fan.

1) Ringo Starr – “You Can’t Fight Lightning.” At the time of the interview, Ringo was in the midst of recording an album he called Can’t Fight Lightning. It eventually morphed into Stop and Smell the Roses, released at the end of the year; and the planned title track wouldn’t be released until 1994.

Ringo_JohnThis was a pre-sober Starr: “Ringo sits cross-legged on the floor, elbow propped on a coffee table. He takes long sips of brandy and chain-smokes Marlboros. Dark glasses mask bloodshot eyes—souvenirs from an all-night session in the recording studio.”

He also offers this bon mot during the chat: “I asked all my friends to help on Can’t Fight Lightning. George did a couple of tracks, Paul’s done a couple of tracks. But the real drag is that there were tracks made for me by John. I won’t use them now, though. Well, I might. You never can tell. But they won’t be on the album. The fun was going to be that we’d play together, you know?”

jam_sound_affects2) The Jam – “Start!” From a Beatle to a Beatles homage… does it get any better? This three-and-a-half star review of Sound Affects from John Piccarella is the first reference to the Jam that I remember reading. I’m sure that I read about them before, possibly even in Rolling Stone, but they were among dozens of acts that I skipped past at the time – call it (youthful) ignorance at work.jam_snark

The reason I say I’m sure I saw their names in music magazines prior to this date: They’d made a few forays to the U.S. during the previous few years, appearing on American Bandstand and the SNL clone Fridays, and possibly other shows, but that utter Britishness of theirs kept them from catching on. They also weren’t played on the radio around here – that I know of, at any rate. So it’s this snarky review that introduced me to them. (See the clip the right.) The line that stood out to me, though, was: “In 1980, the Jam placed more singles in the English Top Fifty than anyone since the Beatles, whose record they tied.”

I’d love to say that, inspired by the review, I ran to the Hatboro Music Shop and bought the LP. I can’t. I was intrigued by what I read, true, but also budget-conscious. It wasn’t until the next year, after I saw the video for “A Town Called Malice” on MTV, that I picked up anything by the group. That was The Gift.

who_face3) The Who – “You Better You Bet.” It’s odd what we remember. For instance, I recall listening to WYSP-FM or WMMR-FM one day in early 1981 when the disc jockey announced with great fanfare a new song from the Who – and, with that, “You Better You Bet” kicked in. On the other side, he took an audible deep breath and sighed, somewhat beleaguered.

In the Jam documentary I mentioned in the intro, Paul Weller talks about how listening to the Who’s 1965 debut LP, My Generation, helped cement his vision of the Jam as a three-piece band. Understandable, given the album’s brute power. By 1981, however, the Who were not the same band; Keith Moon was dead, and Townshend – as he explains in his memoir, Who I Am, was over-extended. Face Dances, which “You Better You Bet” hails from, was the first post-Moon Who effort; and, while far from bad, was nowhere near as good as Townshend’s solo Empty Glass from the previous year.

joan_badrep4) Joan Jett – “Bad Reputation.” On the same page as the Jam review is this, my introduction to the former Runaway. The reviewer, one Tom Carson, says: “…though the LP works better as gesture than as music, the music’s still the best this artist has ever made.” Later, he sums things up with: “Unfortunately, Bad Reputation is flawed by its literal-mindedness – the arrangements pump along gamely yet rarely swing or soar – and by some unresourceful material. But in its mood and feel, Joan Jett’s first solo album is a determined retelling of what sometimes seems like the truest rock story there is.”

By the end of the year, both it and the epoch-shattering I Love Rock ’n Roll album – the pre-Christmas version with “Little Drummer Boy” – weren’t just in my vinyl collection, but among the most-played albums in my collection. (They aren’t that, anymore, but I still listen to them a few dozen times a year.) And “Bad Reputation,” the title tune, is one of the best rock anthems ever.

rosie_75) Rosanne Cash – “Seven Year Ache.” As I’ve written elsewhere, I didn’t get into Rosanne’s music until 1985 and “I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me.” Yet, four years earlier, I obviously flipped past this short article, which features a nice Q&A with her about the success of her second album and its title track, “Seven Year Ache,” as well as other matters. One question: Which performers do you like to see? Her answer: “Springsteen. And there are some acts around L.A. that I go to see—the Carl Gant Band, they’re really good. I think the last act I paid to see was Rockpile.”

She also confesses (if that’s the right word): “I’d pay to see Judy Garland right now if she were alive. I love her. She’s my hero. She was an absolute clear channel of emotion through her singing.”