Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Tale of Two Adams

We're back from vacation! It was a most excellent time, full of all the things I love - boat and beach action, good food, bargain shopping, "Dark Knight" at the drive-in, mountain storms and music.

Thanks to a former work associate and (still) good pal of Terry's, we scored primo seats to the Counting Crows/Maroon 5 show at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, a great "shed" venue in upstate New York. I didn't have a photo pass, but the seats were close enough that, using Post-College Girl's new tiny digital camera, I still got a few shots.
Sara Bareilles opened the show with a short, sweet set after a gracious introduction by the Crows' Adam Duritz. Her catchy hit, "Love Song," got the biggest reaction, of course, but her other material made for a nice, low-key start to the night, and she included a throaty cover of the Beatles, "Oh, Darlin'" as well.
I'd heard that this CC/M5 show was a co-headline deal, so we weren't sure who would be up next. Turned out to be Maroon 5, whom I have seen before and knew would wear thin quickly. As catchy as the band's songs are, I have little patience for Adam Levine's posturings. The show was a study in rock star poses, laser lights and loud guitar solos, which the crowd lapped up, but I went wandering toward the end of the set, tired as I was of Levine's "Ain't I Great?" 'tude.

In contrast, Counting Crows let the music create the magic, with Duritz in compelling, compelled rare form. He started the show with a stunning version of "Round Here," a song I hear they rarely play anymore, and his impassioned vocals bordered on a breakdown - and I mean that in a good way. This guy doesn't hold back and, unlike the Adam onstage just before, the honesty of his delivery is almost painful and fully cathartic.

After about a half dozen songs, when the band tore into "Rain King," the hardcore fans in the show (like my older daughter) hit upon the realization that the band was performing its brilliant debut album, "August and Everything After" in order and in its entirety. Duritz made mention of Isaac Haye's recent death and said that he wanted to do a special show as a big fan of the soul legend. And such it was.

Though Duritz is, clearly, the driving force behind the songs, and a riveting frontman in his Sideshow Bob dreadlocks, you never lose sight (sound) of the fact that the band is there to cushion, support and sometimes hang on for dear life as they follow him on his emotional wanderings. It makes for a riveting show.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

No Vacation from the Blog

Ah, life at the lake house....!
The two-week escape to update New York is underway and, having put in some real working class efforts for Apple over the last eight weeks, I am reveling in the ability to sleep late and start each day with a simple, "what do I feel like doing today?" The temptation to loll on the couch and sip cocktails while watching the Olympics is strong, but I do want to get caught up with the blog, and establish a more steady habit thereupon. And so, to begin, here are the most recent Washington Post previews:
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Black Crowes at Wolf Trap
What a hoot this gal is! A down-to-earth, straight-talking, fun-loving young woman who also happens to write fine songs and play them like a house a'fire. I had plans to see the show - and finally catch the infamous Crowes in person - but it was a crazy busy time shortly before leaving for vay-cay, so I stayed home instead and watched a DVD, of which I will tell you more anon.
The Section Quartet at IOTA Club
Darling Husband and I got out of the house to see this show two days before leaving town, and were most glad we did. TSQ play genuine rock and roll songs in a genuine classical string quartet style, which results in a greater appreciation of both. This night was billed as a night of Radiohead songs, but that was a bit of bait-and-switch.
The first half of the show lived up to the title, including great versions of "Paranoid Android" and "Karma Police," but then the group veered off into songs mostly pulled from TSQ's recent CD, "Fuzzbox." I love the quartet's version of the Strokes' "Juicebox," and they are so totally proficient at their instruments that nearly everything they play sounds terrific, but I wanted more Radiohead (they'd done a previous tour of the entire "OK Computer" album, so I knew they had more songs in the catalog). Minor quibble, though, for a night of invigorating, unusual music.
And these were the two stories that appeared in the previous Post cycle:
Slapsticon film festival at Rosslyn Spectrum
Hoots & Hellmouth, Robinella at Jammin Java

As for the long-neglected O/CD Tally, I brought a bag of recent acquisitions with me, and will be dealing with them as the week progresses. For now, I have one recommendation:
1. SUPERGRASS – Diamond Hoo Ha (Astralwerks)
The spunky Brits join a new label but retain the same engaginly scruffy sound. Easy to take these guys for granted but you put on the album and start to smile. “Rough Knuckles” has a gotta-dance keyboard hook that would do Jerry Harrison proud.

And then, alas, there are those that left me disappointed:
2. WE ARE SCIENTISTS – Brain Thrust Mastery (Astralwerks)
Now positioned as a duo (didn't there used to be three?), WAS made a nice splash with their debut CD, but this new one flowed past me on a recent drive without one making a solid impression and a few driving me to push the FF button. Now I hear they're opening for Kings of Leon in the fall, and the track "After Hours" is getting radio airplay, so I may revisit. But first impression was dull.
3.LACH – The Calm Before (Fortified)
This CD is stickered with a PR note that says “RIYD [recommended if you dig] Paul Westerberg, Beck and Paul Weller.” Fine artists, all of them, but I don’t hear a lick of that high-quality creation in the music here.
4. The CAT EMPIRE – So Many Nights (Velour)
I loved the first Cat Empire so much, it made it to my Top Ten list for the year, which makes it hurt to say that this one is a true sophomore slumper. The lyrics are often cringe-worthy and the rhythms, so playful and seemingly spontaneous in the debut, feel forced. Guys,what happened?!
Simply not my bag, baby. Produced and mixed by a guy named Mudrock.

YTD Total:125