Graham Parker & the Rumour – The Wilbur Theatre – Boston 12-6-12 AND The Roxy Theatre – Hollywood 12-11-12

Most of this was written last night right after the show, but thanks to Time Warner shutting my entire home internet down (again…) and me nearly losing the whole thing in the process….I wasn’t able to get back and post it until today.

Been a lot going on, so I’ve neglected the blog for a bit.  It seems that I go to enough concerts that the task of writing about each one is a bit ambitious.  Still going to try and fill in the blanks, even if it’s just a wrap up list with short comments for the past few months.

But, the last two shows I’ve seen this year really need to be written down while the buzz of the second one is still ringing slightly in my ears from a couple hours ago.

When I worked at the Warehouse Records in 1978 (while I went to college), we had an assistant manager…Jean was her name.  She loved Graham Parker and the Rumour and used to play it a lot in the store.  “Heat Treatment”, “Howling Wind”…I was impressed, but I wasn’t exactly converted into a fan quite yet.

Then, “Squeezing Out Sparks” was released.  That was (and remains) one of my top ten albums of all time.  Here was a tight band with a great writer and acerbic lead singer that wasn’t exactly punk or new wave (whatever those even were then or now)….But it was this weird amalgam of garage rock and soul funneled into a passionate sound.  I gave in and became a fan.

They played a legendary show at the Roxy in 1979, but I wasn’t able to go.  Later, I obtained a bootleg of it that I played over and over.  He broke up with the Rumour not long after.  I saw him in the mid 80’s a couple times.  Once opening for Eric Clapton to an indifferent crowd at the Pacific Amphitheater and once at the Palace in Hollywood supporting the album “The Mona Lisa’s Sister”.  I hadn’t seen him since then, as he moved to being a mostly solo act and due to bad timing I’d always be gone when he hit town or hear about it later.

So, I was surprised and amazed to hear he’d reunited with the Rumour after 31 years apart, recorded a new album and was featured in a new movie “This is 40”.

Which brings us briefly up to date:

Last week I was on vacation in Boston and it just happened that he was playing less than a mile from our friend’s condo.  I played a bit for him and convinced him to join me and see the show.  We ended up with some very nice forth row seats, a bit to the side, but all in all…excellent.

He opened with “Fools Gold”, musically it was tight…vocally, a tad rough and I wondered how this might play out.  Would it work, or had too many years passed to ever revisit the wonderful sound from 31+ years ago?  “Pull it Apart” was next (and was better to my ears).  “Hotel Chambermaid” followed and things fell into place for me.

The band was rock solid and tightly locked in with each other.  Graham had slowed his urgent delivery of the past, but as he warmed up proved to be a better singer in many ways.  Keys may have been changed here and there, but the phrasing worked as good or better as those heady days when we were all younger, stronger and faster.

“Coathangers” was the first new song of the set with it’s theme of abortion rights echoing his earlier song “You can’t be too strong” from “Squeezing Out Sparks”.  It was damn good and things were really tight for a band who’d been apart over 30 years.  It was a bit surreal, I was actually seeing GP and the Rumour live in front of me.  Six months ago, I’d have said it would never happen,  it was something I didn’t expect but appreciated every moment of.

They took a brief detour into the 80’s with “Start a Fire”, and then played a five song suite from “Three Chords Good”, the new album.

“Old Soul”, “Stop Crying about the Rain”, “Long Emotional Ride”. “Live in the Shadows” and “A Lie Gets Halfway Around the World”.  These are a somewhat more content GP in places, with the last song (Lie) hitting harder and closer to the classic GP sound.  That being said, I liked them all…except maybe “Live in the Shadows”, which would maybe be my least favorite track off the new release.

From there is was back to the past and the closest to hits from his catalog.  “Watch the Moon Come Down” was brilliant followed by “Discovering Japan”, “Nobody Hurts You” and “Protection”….The later with some incendiary guitar work from Brinsley Schwarz.  For a bunch of guys in their sixty’s they were really rocking.  “Stupefaction” and “Local Girls” closed the set.  The encores were “That Moon was Low”, “Passion is no Ordinary Word”, “Hey Lord (don’t ask me questions)” and finishing with “Soul Shoes”.

A brilliant show that sent me back in time and really was a dream come true.  So happy that my friend from Boston was able to join me and even though he was unfamiliar with the material, he said that he had a really good time as well.

I’d learned that they were to play a record release party as their LA show.  It was for “This is 40” and to be at the Roxy…there was just no way I could miss that.

I arrived and learned that the Roxy has changed a bit (haven’t we all) since I was last there (As best I can recall it was around 1982 to see the Tubes!).  They removed all the seats and tables.  That’s sort of an issue for a guy with bad knees and strained back (long story there…)

I asked if it was possible to get a seat as I couldn’t stand for the whole evening.  It took a bit, but ultimately they put me in the VIP section.  I ended up sitting with a couple guys, one of them had broken his back in a motorcycle accident four months ago.  We chatted and I learned that they were touring and session musicians and that led to the first cool story of the night.  The subject of Springsteen came up and one of them mentioned he was friends with the late Danny Federici of the E Street Band.  He’d seen them more times than you could count and we traded a few Springsteen stories, like my first time seeing him in 1978 and found we’d been at some of the same shows.  But, the other fellow had the best one of the night though….

He worked as a session guy at a studio owned by Roy Bitten in the early 90’s.  He said that he had asked to meet Bruce sometime when Roy went to his house to see him.  One day he got a call and headed up to Bruce’s house with Roy.  He said he mostly sat to the side while Roy and Bruce worked on a song.  Roy mentioned he played bass, so he joined in for a bit.  Turns out the song Bruce and Roy were working on that night turned in “The Streets of Philadelphia”….wow, so, I was sitting with guys who hadn’t just met my all time favorite, but had seen him and even been in a little on the creative process on an amazing song.  I was impressed and really enjoyed just talking about music in general with them both.

I also had my “Hollywood moment” of the night….I realized as I was talking to them that Lemmy of Motorhead was standing nearby (pretty sure it was him and he hangs out there.)  and directly in front of me was Paul Rudd and Chris O’Dowd.  So yeah, I was hanging with the “A” listers last night.  Not bad for a old and never-cool guy from the OC.

There were two opening acts.

First was Ryan Adams who did three songs.  They were okay, but not memorable and his set didn’t really connect well for someone with his talent.

Up next was Lindsey Buckingham…(see…it was a pretty amazing night!)  He did four songs and absolutely tore it up.  Masterful vocals on “Go Insane” and brilliant fretwork on “Never Going Back Again” and “Big Love”.  One of the best four song sets I think I ever have heard.  A real contrast with Ryan Adams and his more indifferent sounding set.

Which leads me finally to Graham Parker and the Rumour for my second show by them in less than a week.  (The whole concept of any show by them is still hard to wrap my head around, but twice is just amazing!)

Opening with “Fools Gold” again (and a better version out the gate than Boston). The set list swapped things up a little:  “Three Cords Good”, “Hotel Chambermaid”, another great version of “Coathangers”, “What Do You Like” (from the soundtrack released today), “Get Started”, “Stop Crying About the Rain”, “Long Emotional Ride”, “Howling Wind” (which really took off).  “Live in the Shadows” followed (still not a favorite for me.)

But, the band was even more locked in than last week.  Not a note out place and improved vocally all around, including GP himself.  You could tell they were up for this show and it took me (and maybe them I’d guess) back to 1979 and the show I missed.  It was just brilliant to experience something that really seemed impossible for most of the past 30 years.  For a time a 19 year old version of me occupied that seat in place of the old guy who usually walks around these days.

“A Lie Gets Halfway Around the World” lead to “Watch the Moon Come Down” and then the same last five as Boston.  “Discovering Japan”, “Nobody Hurts You”, “Protection”, “Stupefaction” and “Local Girls”.  All I can say is those were everything I hoped for and more.

The first encore was a great version of “You Can’t Be Too Strong” followed by “Passion is no Ordinary Word” and then the second was “Hey Lord (don’t ask me questions), “Soul Shoes” and my final surprise of the night….”I Want You Back (alive)”, my all time favorite cover by them and played on that wonderful old bootleg I had…I couldn’t have asked for a better finish.

I waited for the crowd to thin and noticed Bob Andrews, the keyboard player my the merch stand.  I went over and met him and his girlfriend, Robin who collaborates with him now writing lyrics for him and designing some cool artwork for their CD’s.  So, I actually had a chance to say a brief thank you to him for all those years of brilliant music and for doing this reunion album and tour.

What an amazing way to wrap my concerts for 2012…by transporting myself back to 1979 and hearing a band that has been a soundtrack for me for so many years.  Just a brilliant night!

Here’s 1979 (not the best video quality, but all I can find of the song)

Here’s something from the Boston show last week. (A little shaky, but good audio).

If you like these, there are a lot more on You Tube….go check it out for yourself, old or new, it’s all good stuff!


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