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Jeff Beck & Imelda May w/her band – April 8, 2011

How you describe perfection?

I have no idea, so I’m not really sure that anything I can write tonight can capture just how perfect the show was tonight.  Seriously, this was the sort of experience you always hope for when you buy a concert ticket.

I have an old story that I’ve told many times….basically, when I was a teen I heard the Rolling Stones were the “best” live act ever.  I disagreed with that premise simply based on the fact that I had already seen some amazing acts that I felt were better on a given night than the Stone could ever have been.  Besides, who can be that good night in and night out?  I decided that on a given night the “best” live band in the world could be in a bar in Iowa….the universe just lines up for them and every note falls into place.  So, (I decided) on any given night the “best” band in the world could be any band.  It’s a part of what keeps me going to shows.  The mystery, the chance that for a moment the band before me can be a greater sum than all it’s parts….that the clouds will part and I’ll hear angels singing in front of me.  I’ve seen it a few times, bands I love (Springsteen), bands I simply liked (Lynyrd Skynyrd  or Don Henley) who drew me in and then upped their game right before my eyes…and even bands that were a revelation who I really didn’t expect to be transcendent (Green Day a few years ago).

Tonight, angels sang and they played guitars at the Fox Theatre in Pomona.

The term “guitar god” gets tossed around pretty liberally, but if it applies to anyone…I’d cast a vote to for Mr. Beck to be included on the shortlist.  It wasn’t just that his playing was technically perfect, and that note-for-note covered the bases of the material he was playing.  But, it was in the way that he could wring emotion from the guitar within the context of the song, never over-stepping or falling into excess.  It’s a fine line I’ve seen many fall brutally across in an effort to impress with speed and/or prowess.  Instead, his playing simply served the song and showed the confidence in his skills that any need for flash was cast aside.  Whether on a Strat or a Gibson…strumming a hollow body or or playing bottleneck blues…he presented a master-class in early pop/rock guitar playing that was amazing see in person.

I had one sort of sad thought near the end of the show.  I doubt that I will ever be able to do any single thing in life anywhere near as well as he plays the guitar.

Of course, it took more than one player on stage to create such magic for me.  Imelda May  and her band were one for my very fun memories of both Glastonbury and Hop Farm.  Tonight they stepped up a level from “fun” to somewhere near “awesome”.  Darrel Higham (Imelda’s husband) provided confident rhythm support and lead vocals on songs like “Rockin is our Business” and “Hound Dog”.  Yes, the old Elvis chestnut that you’ve doubtless heard millions of times.

See, that’s one of the coolest things about the show.  Taking a bunch of old songs that you’ve heard bar bands butcher a dozen times and bring them back to life.  “Hound Dog”, “Rock Around The Clock”, “Train Kept a Rollin” and “Walking in the Sand” were firmly grasped and then pulled from the oldies bin…lovingly restored and played not as some museum time capsule, but as vibrant current rock and roll songs.  This wasn’t the fair circuit-oldies act recitation of “dusty old hits” that everyone knows.  This was a band of world class musicians paying tribute to the pioneers who had blazed the trail that so many (including the folks on stage) had followed.

The middle section of the show featured a tribute to Les Paul and Mary Ford.  With Imelda May pre-recording her vocals as Mary had years ago to accompany herself they ran through a classic series of hits from the 50’s.  “How High The Moon”, “Sitting on Top of the World”, “Bye Bye Blues”, “The World is Waiting for the Sunrise”, “Vaya Con Dios” and “Mockingbird Hill”…But, they saved the best for last with a thrilling version of “The Tiger Rag”.  No camp, no sly hipster winks…they had a real love of the songs that clearly came through each note.

Swapping the Les Paul Guitar for his more familiar Fender Strat and joined on stage by a horn section, they did a series of rock instrumentals.  “Peter Gunn”, “Apache” and a transcendent version of “Sleepwalk”, which was another of those very familiar songs that you’d have sworn you had no interest in hearing…until you actually heard them play it tonight.  They closed the set with a couple of movie songs: “The Girl Can’t Help It” and then “Rock Around the Clock”.

The encores were…A muscular version of the Shangri-La’s “Remember Walking in the Sand”, followed by “Hound Dog” with a slowed down vamp of an extra chorus and the Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s (and covered by Elvis) version of “Up Above My Head (I hear music in the air)”….Pop, rock, gospel and movie soundtracks….where do you go from there?

How about a ballad from 1910?  Unexpectedly (but in a way not really, seeing Imelda and her band are from Ireland)….they did one of the most moving versions of “Danny Boy” that I’ve ever heard.  Seriously…if I were Irish, I’d have been crying my eyes out…And, as it was I seem to have gotten a speck of dust in there somehow near the end of the song that made them water slightly anyway….wow…

As I said, hard to describe perfection….and I’m out of words to try tonight.

Here’s a taste:

 

An someone posted Danny Boy already on You Tube….gotta love this new technology…

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Chromeo – February 19 – Pomona Fox Theatre

I’ve sadly neglected the blog for a couple weeks and feel sort of guilty.

Tons of excuses, but none of them very good ones.  Just lots of distractions.

I saw Chromeo  a couple weeks ago at the Fox Theatre in Pomona and promised a review.  First off the theatre is awesome, a great restoration it’s sort of like the place we dreamed of opening back in the 80’s when Joel B. and I worked on opening a club/concert hall in Riverside.  The seat I was able to grab in the balcony was perfect too.  Comfortable leather, on the aisle in the front row of the balcony.  Pretty much perfect.

First up was a band from Japan named, “The Susan”.  They had that sort of sloppy puck attitude that carried the Go-Go’s, Runaways and dozens of other lesser lights through the 80’s.  Initially I wasn’t very impressed, but their sheer enthusiasm with some poppy hooks sort of won me over in the end.  I didn’t rush out to buy their CD, but I’ve heard a lot worse bands kick off a triple bill show and they were listenable and fun.

Here’s a clip I found:

Sadly, I can’t say the same about MNDR the next act up.  She (just one performer) was a trainwreck of loops and tuneless vocals.  Mostly in the dark and only lit by a video projector hitting the screen behind her.  (Okay, I have to comment on that since it’s what I do for a living…hire a projectionist!  The image was not scaled onto the screen and mostly spilling past it into a void.  It looked half-assed, and unprofessional and annoyed me on a personal level before she even played (looped?) a note.)  She was bad enough that I escaped the tumult to the lobby to simply get away from her for a couple numbers.

Here’s a short demo clip of her:

Chromeo was up next.  And, let me say right off that I enjoyed the show, but now a couple weeks later I can’t really say that it stuck with me.  They pulled off a big enough live sound for two guys,  but the limit of so many loops is that the show felt sort of canned, they never really stretched out and hit a groove the way you’s hope a tight funk/dance band would.  A few more musicians on stage might have given them a little more room to breathe and stretch out.

One thing I have to note is that the lighting was awesome!  Putting back on my professional hat, I thought it was one of the more creative and great looking shows I’ve seen in that scale of a theatre in a long time.  They didn’t have a ton of gear, but the LD used it all VERY effectively and really did a cool job.

The band ran through a generous helping of their two albums.  I was a bit surprised that they tossed off a song like “Don’t turn the lights on” so early in the set (about a third of the way in), but that also sort of illustrated to me that they are pretty unconventional (in a good way).  Yet, it just wasn’t as amazing as seeing Robert Randolph a week before.  It was good but not great.  But, I set a pretty high bar for relatively unknown band with two albums by saying that.  I love the mix of funk, 80’s and electronic sounds.  Great studio band, fun enough live…give them time I suppose.

I have to say that I love some of the fun touches in their videos.  And, I’d see them again…just maybe not if MNDR was opening….

Here’s a couple videos, the first a live on Letterman clip:

 

This is older, but I love the Dire Straits look of the whole video:

 

This last one is from “Live at Daryl’s House” with Daryl Hall and his band:

 

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Chromeo pre show

So trying something a little different here tonight. Waiting for a show to start and blogging off my iPhone. Ain’t technology grand?

I’m at the Fox Theatre in Pomona. Never been here before, but I love the place already! This was like the vision that I had with my business partner at the time of what we wanted to do back in the mid 80’s.

A nicely restored Art Deco theatre with room for about 1000 people. It’s clean, it has comfortable seats, about all they need is food service and it would be exactly the vision Joel and I had to open in Riverside about 1983.

I’m about the oldest person here tonight to see Chromeo. I guess that means I’m one of the few people here who heard their “influences” for real when the influences were still new. In other words, mashing up Hall&Oates with the Gap Band and disco is awesome…

But, it’s very familiar sounds to me.

To the kids here it’s all new. Which actually makes it even more fun for me.

It’s a bit like I know a few secrets that they don’t. Plus, it’s fun to get the puzzled looks from the 20 somethings trying to figure out if I’m someones dad or something. It’s good to keep them guessing….:)

Almost show time, a full report later!

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