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Boldly going where no band has gone before: Keith Richards leads the Rolling Stones into their 50th year with two bow-down London gigs

Keef 25.11.12

 

“I’ve always wanted to find out what would happen if we just kept going.” – Keith Richards

“To boldly go where no man has gone before.” – Captain James Tiberius Kirk

That Keith quote came from an interview with Rolling Stone mag’s then-reporter, Kurt Loder. The interview took place on November 12, 1981 on the eve of the Rolling Stones’ Still Life tour. That was 32 years ago.

Tonight I saw my second Stones gig in London in the span of five days. Tonight I saw a group of guys who have been prowling stages across the globe for the last 50 years. Tonight I saw grown men, elderly people, play rock and roll music with the reckless abandonment of piss-and-vinegar teenagers.

Tonight I saw the Stones go where no band has gone before … and they did it in bold fashion.

Disclaimer time: I am a certified Stones freak. This post is an unapologetically gushing review/commentary on the band that I love to love. If they sucked, I’d tell you, because I have high expectations every time I see them. They didn’t suck … not even remotely close. In fact, these were the best Stones shows I have ever seen. These gigs were bow-down quality; so damn good you have to genuflect whenever you speak of them.

The two Stones shows that I saw this week were my 19th and 20th. I happily paid those ugly, greedy, what-the-fuck prices that everyone is bitching about. After the first show on Sunday night, I claimed that it was the “best I’ve ever seen.” Tonight, Thursday night, after seeing the Stones again, I can now say that this gig was THE best that I’ve ever seen. I am going to the December 15th show in Newark, N.J. and I am sure that I will proclaim that show as … drumroll please … the best ever.

I have seen the Stones on three continents and in four countries.

I have sold possessions to get tickets. I have donated blood and sperm for money to get tickets (not at the same time). In college I lied to my parents, telling them I needed money for a school project to get bread for tickets. I have burned savings and bridges to get tickets.

One time, late on a Wednesday afternoon, I chartered a small four-seater twin engine plane to fly me and three friends from Nashua, N.H. to Buffalo, N.Y. to see a show that I had randomly bought tickets for (I had never even been to Buffalo). The round trip flight-concert-flight took 13 hours.

Another time, a group of twenty or so people I was going to college with drove from Plymouth, N.H. to Montreal, Canada to see the Stones. Most all of us got separated at the gig. The next day, after sleeping in a bus station, myself and two buddies had to hitchhike to the Canadian border and wait there until someone from Plymouth made the four-hour drive to come pick us up.

On another occasion, myself and a handful of other Stones nuts woke up one morning and decided to drive from N.H. to Philly, without tickets, to see a Stones gig … and then drove the eight hours straight back home (we scalped good seats).

I have had similar, madcap, illegal activity-filled, over-the-top incidences in Boston, New Jersey (don’t ask!), Vegas, Miami, NYC and Sydney, Australia. The list goes on and on and on.

I have seen the Stones many times, but what I saw this week in London was something truly special. This wasn’t a nostalgia act. This wasn’t some un-retirement “we’re back!” bullshit. This definitely was not a last hurrah. Nope — the band that performed in London this week was a working band. This was a band that, though they have an average age of 69, played as though they still had something to prove.

Maybe that’s what keeps them going, as Keith says. Maybe they think they owe it to themselves, to their fans, and to rock and roll itself to keep this thing of theirs moving forward; to see how far they can take it; to set a bar so damn high that it forces those young upstarts not just to reach for the stars, but to reach for stars in other galaxies. To boldly go, indeed …

For these two shows they played a total of 46 songs; nine of those unique (set list from night one and night two ); one of them they hadn’t performed since 1964 (“I Wanna Be Your Man”). They had four special guests: Jeff Beck, Mary J. Blige, Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine, and Eric Clapton . They invited two old pals back to play along with them in their hometown: Bill Wyman (76 years young) and Mick Taylor.

They played with a stripped-down band (just the core four guys) with Darryl Jones on bass, plus Chuck Leavell on keyboards and with appearances by their normal back-up singers and brassmen, including the legendary Stones co-hort, Bobby Keys. They played with as small and uncomplicated a stage as they’d used since their Some Girls US tour in ’78. They kept it relatively simple: it was about the guys and, righteously, about the music.

A video playlist of fan vids from the two London Stones gigs:

Right, the music. I have to talk about the music. I will focus mostly on the second show, because it was superior in a few ways. The band was far more relaxed the second night. The guests, Clapton and Florence, were much better. The set list, in my opinion, was better. The true reason the second night was better was because Keith Richards was playing out of his head.

Keith has been a longtime hero of mine, and not just for the debauchery. I admire the man because he has lived life on the terms that he dictated … for better or worse. He’s never had a real job in his life; his life is his job. He is the Rock and Roll archetype that many others try and fail to duplicate. Charlie Watts recently said that “when people are hanging around Keith, they start believing that they are Keith. That’s where all the trouble starts.

The trouble with Keith is that in the past decade or so, he has been caught up in his own myth — and to be honest, riding on the coattails of his legendary guitar work. The hardcore Keith/Stones fans will tell you that he hasn’t been playing well at all on recent tours. His playing was sloppy: missing intro riffs he has done gazillions of times; flicking away at his fretboard when he should be chugging away at his classic Keef riffs; not singing and playing at the same time; using hired sidemen to stand off stage and play fills for him. It was getting to the point that you expected Ronnie to carry the show (and to carry Keith). Some people thought that when he fell out of that tree in Fiji and had brain surgery that he lost basic motor skills. There were reports that on the last tour in 2005 he was drinking too much … yeah, too much for Keith Richards (this was confirmed in a recent interview with three years sober Ronnie Wood).

Actually, I read recently where Keith recently said that he has slowed down his drinking to the random glass of wine with dinner. If this is true, it may be the reason why he is now playing his face off. In 1978 the Stones went on tour to support the Some Girls album. Keith had just kicked the junk. Go watch that recently released tour video, Some Girls – Live in Texas ‘78. Keith’s playing is renewed and downright possessed. Hopefully history repeats itself.

I went to the (first) Sunday show with a worried mind: what kind of Keith would show up at the London gigs? I had heard reports that at the warmup gig in Paris a month earlier, Keith was not in good form. Could Keith be the reason there are only five shows? Are they testing him to see if he can hold up? Are they testing him to see if he has the chops? Are they testing him to find out if he can still deliver the goods?

If the band was testing him … he fucking aced it.

Keith Richards’ performance for these two shows was something to behold. He is 69 years old and carries the heavy baggage of a life not just living on, but peering over the edge 24/7. He should not have been able to do what he did on Sunday and Thursday night … but he did. By the end of the Thursday night gig he was prowling around the stage like the feared and proud black panther of “Midnight Rambler” fame. He owned that stage … flat out owned it. And he knew it, too.

The first night you could actually see it start to happen. For the first three songs you could tell he was feeling his way around. He was casing the joint and trying to figure out where the entrance was. Then, when they kicked into “Paint it Black,” his switch flipped. He came alive. He started moving around the stage and laying down the riffs with authority. It was as if he just said, “Aw, fuck it … I’m all in. Let’s do this.

Fast forward to the final encore of Thursday night, “Satisfaction.” Three minutes into the song, Keith starts in on a solo that lasted well over two minutes. I remember thinking, “Holy shit … this is the real Keef, the real deal rock and roll legend as I’ve never seen him live before.” The band was locked in Keith’s groove. It was Keith’s band on this night.

To say he was on fire would be too cliche. He wasn’t on fire, he was a fucking raging furnace with its big steel doors wide open exposing the glowing red coal carpet that was fueling the night’s performance. Mick, Charlie, Ronnie and the fans just kept shoveling coal into Keith’s belly and the flames got brighter, the heat got hotter and the music warmed our rock and roll-loving hearts.

Ladies and gents, on Thursday night, Keith Richards played some of the best live guitar work of his career. And it isn’t just me saying this. Go check out the forums on the long-running fan site It’s Only Rock and Roll and you’ll read the same. All of the talking heads on the radio stations here in London can’t stop talking about how shit-hot Keith’s playing was. You can catch his performance on YouTube clips, but I beg you to go see them live in the States next month if you can … you have to experience the energy Keith is giving off right now firsthand. It’s sick.

Don’t let a Keith fan run amuck when at the keyboard, eh? Let me get back to the shows.

They kicked off with four early hits: “Get Off My Cloud,” “I Wanna Be Your Man” (a Lennon/McCartney penned tune specifically for the Stones), “The Last Time,” and “Paint It Black,” which was the showstopper of the lot. Lot of pumping energy and great lighting effects.

Next up was my favorite song of all time, “Gimme Shelter.” Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine guested on this. She nailed it. I am not a fan of her voice, but she was provoking the hell out of Mick. She was right up in his face to the point where you thought she was going to bite it off. She brought a lot of energy to the song. Keith’s solo was spot on.

Next up was the treat of the night: “Lady Jane.” Mick said that they hadn’t played it live in a while … didn’t show. Ronnie and Keith pulled up a couple chairs, plopped down with their acoustics and delivered a gorgeous version of the song.

Time for special guest number two: Eric Clapton . While Jeff Beck was a worthy guest on Sunday night, he overpowered the entire building with his wizard-like technical skills. It was impressive, but it didn’t completely jibe. Clapton was a true pro and a gentleman. They played a Muddy Waters song, “Champagne and Reefer.” Clapton didn’t overplay or overpower, but he did play some killer blues. He took two solos that were tops. Ronnie took one as well and, per usually, was brilliant. Then, quite unexpectedly, Keith took a solo! It was a statement solo: “Hey pal, this is my stage … you think you know the blues? This is the blues.” He had this look on his face when he was playing it, too: Don’t fuck with me, I’m working here. The song was an all-around crowd pleaser.

Then they went into “Live with Me.” This is where Keith started to stake claim as the baddest motherfucker in the building. He got right into this one, he hunched over his fretboard, didn’t move from it and delivered those hybrid Chuck Berry solos that had me playing some serious, if not embarrassing, Keef-like air guitar.

“Miss You” came next. Whether you like this tune or not, you can’t help but get up and dance (I was on my feet, but then again, I never sat down once during the entire gig). Mick leads the crowd in a great sing-along with everyone delivering horrible falsettos that seem to work in unison.

The two new tracks were next: “One More Shot” and “Doom and Gloom.” Hey, for new tunes, these worked well. A lot of people left for the toilets, but I don’t think that was a reflection of the songs. Remember, this is an old crowd, and bladder control ain’t what it used to be.

Hopefully they got back in time for the next few songs, because they featured Bill Wyman, the Stones’ original bassist (yes, I know, the true original bassist was Derek Taylor … but let’s keep this history lesson short, eh? This review is long enough). They played huge sing-along favorites for Bill: “It’s Only Rock and Roll” and “Honky Tonk Women.” Bill got huge applause, but really, you couldn’t truly tell if he made a difference. His style is distinct, but in the setting, not so much. It was just cool to have him there. He stood there and smiled a bit and the crowd was happy. Hell, he’s 76 years old! Keef was down right countrified on this one.

After Bill left, we got to the band introductions. All the core guys received huge applause, and they saved the best for last: Keith. Deafening cheers were delivered in acknowledgement of the man’s playing. He delivered none of his usual tour schtick (“It’s good to be here … it’s good to be anywhere“). You don’t need schtick when you got chops. Keith slashed through his two most popular hits, “Before They Make Me Run” and “Happy.” Believe it or not (and now this is where I will lose anyone still reading), Keith’s vocals were actually damned good on both numbers.

Then the lights dimmed and glowed blue on the stage and a familiar riff came out of Mick’s harmonica: The Rambler. The band exploded into “Midnight Rambler” just as the house lights came up to reveal that Mick Taylor had joined the band. Taylor was damn good on Sunday night — and on Thursday night, he was brilliant. On Sunday he was hopping around the stage as if he was trying to find his spot. He seemed to be thinking and playing at the same time. Between the two gigs he must have watched some footage of his performance, because the second time around he was much more controlled in his movements and his playing was more dynamic; more in the groove with the song. He took some great solo runs that made you wish we could get more of him on the night. I think the Stones should hire him as a sideman, like they do with the horns and Bobby Keys. Bring Mick T on tour and let him come out on four songs.

stones+mickT

After “Rambler” we hit the home stretch: a powerhouse lineup of some of the most familiar, time-tested and genre-changing music ever created. One by one, Keith led the band through stomping, raw and rowdy versions of their best of the best: “Start Me Up,” “Tumblin’ Dice,” “Brown Sugar,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” and then three encores: “You Can’t Always get What You Want,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and “Satisfaction.

The band was in full stride at this point. Charlie Watts was steady and punctuated every familiar riff with fills, rolls and bashes. At 72, the man is not slowing down. A phenomenal performance by Charlie. Mick is a complete wonder … how the hell does he do that? He never stopped moving. His voice is in damned good shape. He works hard to keep his health and his voice up to scratch, and it shows. He is the master showman and there is (and never has been) anyone better. Ronnie, as always, was having fun and playing solo after solo. His work on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was outta sight … my fave rave Ronnie solo of the night.

But the final run of War Horse classics came down to Keith. These are his riffs. He knows them inside and out. As mentioned previously, he hasn’t been doing them justice as of late, but tonight he put them on display in all of their raunchy glory.

His solo on “Sympathy” had that beautiful thing he does with adding white space between the notes. So simple, but so poignant. His solos on “Gimme Shelter” were full of that toughness, that cock-sure attitude. His solo on “Honky Tonk” had that trumpet-y, horn feeling to it and it rang out in the venue. Yeah, if he ever left, no bones about it … Keith Richards is back and in top form. Do not miss him live.

During “Jack Flash” there was a great montage video on the screen. It showed clips of fans at Stones concerts for the past 50 years, which was very cool to see. There was 50 years of culture change flashing before our eyes. There was black and white footage. There were small rooms and huge crowds of people. There were scenes of fans from all over the world. There were generations of fans getting lost in the fun of being at a Rolling Stones gig.

It made you think of all the people that have attended their concerts over the last 50 years. How many lives have the Stones been a part of? How many memories have they created for people? How many people have actually seen the Stones? You watch this video and you see the joy on people’s faces and you realize that it is the Stones — who they are and what they represent — that are the constant. Though they are now old they still represent youth, rebellion and fun. Who doesn’t want that? The Stones are still around because we need them. Yeah, you forget about them on a day-to-day basis, but when you go to one of their gigs and they play like they did on Sunday and Thursday, you realize just how alive and ambitious they make you feel.

Near the end of the song, the video changed from showing old images to live shots of the crowd. A nice touch, and you know what? There was no difference between the past and the present. People were LOVING it. People were still just as excited to be a part of a live Stones gig today as they were 50 years ago. This struck me when I saw the live footage. I thought, “That’s me.” Yeah, I’m a nut and I think into this a bit too much for the average punter, but last night I was a stark raving mad fan singing along to every tune and dancing in the aisles while doing it. Shit, I went to the damned gig by myself. I needed to be there. I love being a Rolling Stones fan.

As they were playing to the end of the last encore, “Satisfaction,” I started to mull over the thought I always have at a Stones gig: That this might be the last time I see them live; the last time that I might be in the same room, breathing the same air, listening to my fave guitar player play my fave songs at the same time. Then I smiled, knowing full well that our time together was not over. I’m flying to the States for the final gig on their five-show mini-tour on December 15th in Newark, New Jersey.

Where the Stones go after that is anyone’s guess. Maybe a world tour? Maybe into the studio. Maybe they’ll go and play a few clubs. Wherever they go, however Keith decides to keep this thing going, I know that I’ll be going along with them.

Carry on, boys … see you next month in the States. Thanks for all the turn-ons in London.

P.S. If I had to choose which gig was better, I would have to say this: The second night was superior musically, while the first night had a very special feel to it due to it being the tour opener and the first show in five years. There was so much excitement in the air on Sunday. Which leads me to this …

P.P.S. Just so you understand I’m not the only Stones freak in London, check out this video from the bar right before the gig. You think fans don’t want to see these guys go on a world tour?

Note:  I recently attended the two Rolling Stones 50th Anniversary gigs here in London on the 25th & 29th of November. I was asked to write a review for Popdose.com.  This review below was originally posted here on http://www.popdose.com.

Gigs in 2010 That Made My Head Rock, My Heart Roll and My Moneymaker Shake

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The world does not need another Top 10, 5 or 100 list from another freak with a keyboard. While I do consider myself one of those keyboard freaks, I am not going to give you a list, per se. Actually, technically, what I have here for you is a list. Unfortunately I can’t present this to you in any other form that doesn’t resemble a vertical list of info, vids and anecdotes. 

That being said, here is my non-list list of fave rave gigs I attended in 2010 (think of this more as a collection than a list).

For five years I placed myself in concert going purgatory down in Sydney, Australia. Don’t get me wrong, I saw a handful of bow-down gigs in Sydney: My Morning Jacket, The Black Keys, The Hold Steady, Derek Trucks & EC, Taj Mahal, Bo Diddley, Neil Young, John Fogerty, Lucinda Williams, Ryan Adams (3x), Kings of Leon (2x), Pearl Jam, U2, The Stones, Bob Dylan, The White Stripes, Ray Lamontagne (2x), The Black Crowes…

…wait a minute, that’s not concert going purgatory, that is shit-hot concert going joy! I take back the purgatory comment. Still, that list came over the entire five year period of living there. Back when I lived in Boston, that list would compromise a summer’s worth of concerts for me. 

Sydney…Australia…loves it’s music. The only real problem is that Sydney is a long way from anywhere (aside from New Zealand) and that prohibits a lot of acts from going there.  In September of 2009 I moved to London. I saw a few great bands right away, namely Andrew Bird and Ray Lamontagne (this was my first gig at the Royal Albert Hall as well). 

I went on a concert going tear in 2010. I saw current bands, older acts still making great live sounds and a few seriously…seriously…bow-down gigs for the (my) ages.

I wanted to share those bow-down gigs with you here. Live music is the life-blood. The internet cannot replace this environment and experience. Streaming a gig across the web…fuck that. Yeah, it is OK if you can’t travel half way around the world/country to be there in person, but really…fuck that. No ISDN line or 3G connection is ever going to replace standing shoulder to shoulder, three rows back from the stage, a shit-hot band wailing away, beer in hand, smile on face and making eye contact with a Rock & Roll legend. Hot-concert-going-fucking-a-right-Damn!

There are five gigs that made my big toe shoot up in my boot in 2010 (I love that Little Richard saying). Four of them are by bands known round the world. They are folks that are steeped in lore in Rock & Roll / music history. The fifth is a small blues outfit from The Netherlands. While they may not be known ’round the world, they play big…BIG…big enough to knock the globe of it’s axis. 

I pulled vids from the YouTube (what my old man calls it), each of which comes from the specific gigs I attended. I also provided links to the post I made about the gigs at that specific time. If you have some time off and a cold six pack of your fave rave ales on hand, have a read of, or listen to the previous posts (some of them were episodes of my homegrown, Poorman’s Podcast series). Be sure to look at some of the related videos the YouTube offers up, particularly from the Ronnie Wood and Robert Plant gigs. 

Do I have any tix for 2011 yet, you ask? Well…

…I am certainly going to be starting 2011 of on the right concert going foot: on the 29th Jan I will be attending my first Levon Helm Midnight Ramble (Yes! YES!). This is a music/live music watershed moment for me. I can tell you how much excitement, anticipation, appreciation and outright joy I have for being fortunate enough to have ticket in hand for this gig. There will be much pre, during and post commentary on The 6149 around this. Stay tuned…

Enjoy the sounds…

Top to Bottom, my Fave Rave Gigs of 2010:

Ronnie Wood

If you are new to The 6149, then you don’t know that this was a fucking monumental gig for me. Firstly, it is Ron Wood. Secondly, it was a one-off gig to promote his fantastic 2010 solo album, “I Feel Like Playin‘”. Thirdly, I met some great new friends at this show. Lastly, oh yeah, I snuck into the after-gig party, met and talked with Ronnie Wood for 20 minutes or so and then hung out with the rest of the band, celebs and hangers-on until 3:00 am. 

Like I said….monumental. Be sure to read the previous post on the gig to get the entire story. The music was insanely good. Ronnie was in excellent form. He also had the London cast of Stomp on hand to perform very cool percussion duties. 

I loved what Ronnie did in 2010 with his album, his radio program and especially this gig…what a night!

“Stay With Me” –  The Ambassador Theatre, London 09/19/10

“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” – The Ambassador Theatre, London 09/19/10

Leon Russell 

When I saw that Leon was going to be playing in London, I shit my pants. I couldn’t buy my ticket fast enough. LEON RUSSEL in London and I was going to be there. Hot damn. The Jazz Cafe is a legendary club that holds 500 people max. I got there extra early and ended up standing 3 feet from Leon. He played all of his hits, a few hits from Bob Dylan and The Stones ( a killer “Wild Horses”) and he played like man on the verge of a comeback.

Comeback…I guess so. When I saw him I was unaware these were tune up gigs for his subsequent album and tour with Elton John. This was a one-off, uber-gig for me. I didn’t get to see him in his prime, but this gig was all primetime shit. 

 Previous Post: “Poorman’s Podcast: Small Joints & Big Highs: Leon Russell at the Jazz Cafe in London

“Delta Lady” (show opener) – Jazz Cafe, London 08/03/10

“Song for You” – Jazz Cafe, London 08/03/10

Robert Plant

Oh yeah…I knew of the new Band of Joy album. I was looking forward to it. I burnt out on Led Zep a long, long time ago; I listened every day in high school. I have always followed Plant’s solo career, though. I love that he never forgot the music that turned him on when he started on his way to rock and roll legend status. I was really hot for his backing band for the Band of Joy album, which is comprised of musician’s musicians, led by the VERY talent Buddy Miller. 

This was the first gig of their tour. In fact, it was their first gig in front of a paying concert going audience ever!  I had never seen Plant in any incarnation prior. I was psyched for this…and wasn’t disappointed.  The playing was tip-top, bow-down phenomenal. They played a lot from the new album and then a few Led Zep covers which were done up in different styles and flavors. Be sure to check out the related videos for this gig. They did a cool, rockabilly version of Rock and Roll and other Zep chestnuts. 

Oh, that concert going experience where I mentioned locking glances with a Rock and Roll legend…that was me at this Plant gig. 

“All the King’s Horses” – HMV Forum, London 09/02/10
 

 

“Houses of the Holy” – HMV Forum, London 09/02/10

Bettye Lavette

Twice. In one night. Back-to-back gigs. It had to be done.

Bettye played two sets this night and I went to both. My wife left after the first one. She knows I have a thing for Bettye. She left feeling safe, but knew that if I had my chance with this soul sister…I’d take it. Now, a few months after the gig, my wife said she would have been more afraid had she read Bettye’s November New Yorker magazine article quote back then:

“I really don’t have a lot of talents.  I can cook, and I can fuck, and I can sing.  And I’m proud of all of them 

Damn straight Bettye, damn straight. 

This woman was a force that night. She didn’t let up in either show. Her 2010 album, “Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook” was on full display.  She doesn’t just sing…she emotes. I love the way she sings. I can’t imagine how good she is at her other talents.

A Woman Like Me” – Southbank Centre, London 06/17/10

“All of My Love” (yes, a Led Zeppllin cover) – Southbank Centre, London 06/17/10

The Juke Joints - Le caveau des Oubliettes, Paris 04/18/10

Sometimes the unexpected exceeds all expectations. I walked into the basement of a very cool Paris pub hoping to hear a half-way decent band. What I got was passion, pride and a powerful, pulsing, propulsion from a quartet of Dutch blues lovers. Read my previous post on this band…it says it all. 

This video/audio is from me. I only had my iPhone on hand, but wanted to capture some of this. The sound quality sucks. Turn your volume down to appreciate the passion in this performance.

“Juke Joints Jam” – 04/18/10 – Paris 

Other stand-out 2010 gigs for me:
  • Black Keys (twice)
  • Drive-By Truckers
  • The Hold Steady
  • Jeff Tweedy
  • Wilco
  • Solomon Burke (just a couple months before he died)
  • Ray Lamontagne
  • Jackson Browne & David Lindley (first time seeing either of them. They gigged at the Royal Albert Hall)
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Alejandro Escovedo
  • Willie Nelson
  • Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • Peter Parcek (x4)

—> What were some of your fave rave gigs in 2010?

“I’m flying, across the ocean and I’m soaring…” (a rock & roll trip around the world)

“I’m flying, across the ocean and I’m soaring…back home to the place I was born and properly raised.”

 There is nothing like a song that delivers exactly what it promises. Some songs just flat-out tell you, “Hey, this is how it’s gonna be”: ” we’re gonna play our asses off, you’re gonna listen and you’re gonna get what’s coming to you. That’s right…we’re gonna cut through; we’re gonna hit the mark; we’re gonna deliver the goods”.

Right now, I am 36,000 feet in the air, hanging above the Atlantic Ocean and yes, I am soaring back home to the place where I was born and properly raised.

OK, let’s be fair here, no song actually makes any promises (well, except, maybe this one). I tell you, though, when I listen to “Flying” by The Faces, hot damn, I’m airborne. The song starts somewhere in the distance, barely audible, and it builds, as if it is about to buckle up and rumble down the runway and propel itself toward the sky. Suddenly, it does; we have lift off.

 Oh yeah, I am soaring right now…and so are Ian Mclaghan and Ronnie Wood. At 2:50 they start playing the time-honored tradition of call and response. Mclaghan lays down some thick church-chords while Ronnie volleys with some squealing, slippery slide work. About a minute later, their engines are killed softly and before you know it, the wheels down.


http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf

Oh, I am jazzed, alright. I think I just listened to that song seven or eight times in a row. Throw in the Ronnie Wood live version with Bernard Fowler on vox and you could take it for another half-a-dozen spins. Whew.

Songs will do that to you. Sometimes you hear a song and you just hear it. Sometime you feel a song and you feel it. Right about now, three hours out of Boston, MA, I am feeling it.

I’m heading back for a week of work in “the colonies”. I have been traveling back to The States often lately; granted, I am going back for work. Considering that I moved Australia in January of 2005 and never once went back to the States until December 2009, any trip back to the States feels good.

Sitting here on this plane, drinking as many Heinekens and watered down bloody mary’s as they will give me, I am thinking about the crazy, cool nomadic path that I have been on. I thought it would be trip (I’m on a roll with these puns lately) to retrace my steps in song. Hope there are a few new turn-ons for you here.

Movin’ Out – Aerosmith: “Gotta move it out ‘cause the city’s movin’ in”

Back before Stephen Tyler sold out like a Tower Records liquidation sale, Aerosmith had a pair. With one fell-swooping pen stroke, Tyler signed on as a Fox Network corporate shill and simultaneously wrote off a legacy of balls-to-the-wall rock and roll. Castrated and confused, the rest of his band mates stand in the shadows and consider giving Sammy Hagar a ring.

That’s not fair to the other guys in the band. There is no way Joe Perry will let the other shoe drop. These guys used to rock. Way back on their first album, they showed that they had the raw chops to cut the mustard.

One of their first songs that got me good is, “Movin’ Out”. I always heard this song as gut-bucket raunch. It is a raunchy, grinding rocker and it has that foot-stomp-y sing a long element to it. Tyler’s vocal creeps and croaks out start ‘er off, the band kicks up a shit-storm of chunky riffs until Tyler steps to the front again with that smokey vocal set on that swirly guitar sound and then the band locks the groove again and takes it on home.

Home. Boston was the place my wife and I called home before we left for Florida. We met there, we got married while we lived there (we got married in the Dominica Republic), we broke bread there. I remember playing this song over and over while we packed up our stuff.

 

Mainline Florida – Eric Clapton: “My heart was leapin’ in the sun. My friends all say you’re the one.”

This song comes from Clapton’s “461 Ocean Blvd”. I first heard this record freshman year in college. I couldn’t stop listening to “Motherless Child”. The slide guitar work in that song shook my bones. Sure, I had heard slide guitar before, but I never really listened to it. I had no choice when I heard Clapton ringing the bell.

That rolling and tumbling lick kicks things off and then, WHAMO! The slide starts cutting like a ginsu knife. SHIT! I still get the chicken skin when I hear it. Plus, Clapton sounded so lonely on that vocal; the slide seemed like it was him weeping. Corny, I know…but that is what I heard.

Also, check out this sick, sick version with Clapton, Doyle Bramhall and Derek Trucks. Three things to note when watching this video: Truck is not (?!) playing slide on this, Steve Jordan is playing the drums like a smokestack lightening train barreling down the tracks and Clapton officially needs someone to surround himself with someone to push his playing)

I digress. The song that closes that album is, “Do the Mainline”. I remember making a “Going Down South” CD mix for our move (circa ’02) and I put this song on it. I had lived in New England all my life. Until I got out of there, I had no idea how conservative it was…well, compared to Florida. I remember thinking, shit, I’ve got to start spreading myself thin and experience more scenes and surroundings.

Little did I know…

 

 

Khe-Sahn – Cold Chisel: “The last train outta Sydney’s almost gone!”

We lived in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for just about three years. Near the end we bought our first house. It was right when the housing boom was at it’s peak. We owned it for just seven months. We had one eye on settling down and growing roots and one eye on the horizon. The time just wasn’t right for settling down or settling at all. We found ourselves a (corporate) ride to Sydney, Australia. Buy the ticket, take the ride. Damn straight.

We found a buyer for our house in just three days. I stuck a sign on the front lawn and the parade of people came marching in. Again, remember, this is right before the market tanked. The “Lucky Country” was already working it’s magic on us.

Our Aussie experience is an entire blog itself. So many great memories, great times and great people. The Aussies have the right idea: play hard, play hard, work hard. Usually when we played, music was front and center. There are so many cool Aussie bands to talk about, but on in particular rings true for me: Cold Chisel. Their lead singer, Jimmy Barnes (“Barnsey”) could party as much as he could sing and he did both in extraordinary fashion.

One of Cold Chisel’s most known and loved song is, “Khe-Sahn”. When I think of great times in Sydney in cramped pubs or in the hot Aussie sun, drinking ice-cold Aussie beers with a bunch of fun-loving, life loving Aussies, I think of this song.

I can’t count how many times this song came out of the speakers and incited a mass sing-a-long. Oh shit, there is goes again: the chicken skin.

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Real, live chicken skin…

 

When Barnsey starts in on that line, “well, the last train outta Sydney…”, everyone starts raising glasses, back slapping and singing at the tops of their lungs. Hot damn. Sydney is a special place.

I am giving you a solo Jimmy Barnes performance. This is a typical crowd response to this tune: rowdy, proud, fist-pumping, sing-a-longs.

Here is the studio version of Khe Sahn.

http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf


I’m Trying to Make London My Home – Sonny Boy Williamson: “Because the people back in my country just don’t know what is going on”.

OK, that is not entirely true. Ol’ Sonny Boy was playing up to the crowd when he and the rest of the blues legends toured in ’62-’65. I will say that I would encourage more Americans to live outside the country if they can. I’ve learned a hell of a lot about myself and my country by being on the outside looking in…a lot. We’re in London now. I’m not sure that we will live here permanently, but I would certainly consider it.

 

(nice vid from its creator)

Why? Hey, I’m no turncoat, but London is an exciting place to live: the history, the proximity to all of Europe for travel, the culture, the music scene. It’s also just a short plane ride back to my old stomping grounds… 

Promised Land – Johnnie Allan “Tell folks back home this is the promised land calling, poor boy’s on the line”

There are cover songs and then there are versions of songs that leaves the original in the dust. This version “Promised Land” has the Chuck Berry original staring at a pair of fading tail lights. Give Chuck his due; he wrote it, but Johnnie Allan owns it. I play this every time I am flying back home.

The song has the “poor boy” trying to make it to the left coast. He encountered a slew of obstacles within his travels, but he kept on persevering and made it out Cal-i-forn-i-a. Oddly enough, Chuck Berry wrote this song while still in prison. A little escapism, perhaps, Chuck?

Sometimes I feel like the “poor boy”. There has been a lot of traveling in the last eight years. There have been many unforgettable experiences along the way and a few obstacles, too. There is one thing I have learned with all this traveling: the “promised land” doesn’t have to be California or any place in particular. It is where ever you want it to be.

“Oh, I’m a Lucky Man!” How I Ended up Hanging With Ronnie Wood After His Solo London Gig [Ode to Mitchell & John]

If truth is indeed stranger than fiction, then what happened to me at the Ronnie Wood gig in London last Tuesday night [19.10.2011] is some seriously strange shit. 

It couldn’t have happened any better then if I had scripted it myself. Sure we make our own luck, but the way things went the other night was something else entirely. Call it Karma, call it kismet, call it cosmic … or hell, just call it cool … but, the pieces all fell in place for a night to remember.

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So there I am in pub in London’s West End having a pint and eating pistachios. I walked by this pub two or three times before finally deciding this would be the place for me to take in the pre-Ronnie Wood show festivities. On the way there I stopped by the news agent to see if the latest Rolling Stone mag with Keith on the cover had hit the stands. Nope; Keith wasn’t on the cover, but latest edition, albeit in the UK it has Obama on the cover, was there. I gave it a quick thumbing and saw that the Q&A feature was with Ronnie. Cool…good vibes. 

So there I am, three-plus hours before the 10:30 start time (Ronnie played a 7:30 show, too) having a pint, eating pistachios and perusing the latest Rolling Stone mag feature on Ronnie. No sooner did I start in on the article did some fast talking, hard to understand English bloke from Essex blurt out to me, “so…you a fan of the Stones”?

And so it began…had I known that this casual meeting would turn into a cardinal moment in my rock and roll fan life, I would have bet the farm on anything being possible that night. 

“Yes, I am. I take it you are as well”, I replied. No sooner did I open the door for a bit of conversation did my new friend and his cohort kick the damn thing wide open and join me at my table. My two new friends, Mitchell and John, were most definitely Stones fans. John was more of a casual fan. Mitchell was more of the freak variety; I could tell Mitchell and I were going to get along just fine. 

It is at this point of the story I should mention that I posted a picture to this blog at that very moment. I had already taken the snap and was ready to upload it when Mitchell and John sat at my table. Right before I finally did, I added this statement: “Just met two Stones freaks. We are off to the races”. Little did I know that we would wind up in the winner’s circle. 

I knew I was going to like these guys straight away. We got on as if we’d known each other for many a year. We traded stories about concerts and I attempted to one-up Mitchell with tall tales from my concert going war chest. Mitchell was not to be outdone. He became a Stones fan in 1989 when the Stones came back out to support Steel Wheels. Mitchell has a friend who is a long time security man for the Stones. Mitchell has been to over one hundred Stones gigs and, thanks to his security friend, for many of them he was back stage behind the velvet ropes hobnobbing with the Stones and their hangers-on. My twenty-eight Stones gigs didn’t seem so impressive anymore. 

Nonetheless…we were not competing, rather, we were reveling in our shared fandom and shared stories of good times at great gigs. We talked endlessly about the music, too. It’s all about the music. It is why we are fans and it is why we are there at the shows. Mitchell and John know there shit when it comes to music. We talked endlessly about fave rave tracks, albums, lyrics…you name it, we talked it. That is the beauty about spending time out at a pub before the gig. It’s part of the concert going experience.  You meet people who share a love for the band/artists, you share a beer or two and you talk about all the reasons why you are a fan. 

We talked so damn much that we almost missed the gig. We threw down the last of our pints and then hustled off to the Ambassador Theatre. The Ambassador is a small venue that seats 444 people, but they only sold 380 seats for each show. We’re talking club sized seating in a old, classic theatre. Whew…there wasn’t a bad seat in the house…so I thought. 

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I bought one ticket right when they went on sale. When it came in the mail I noticed that it said, “restricted viewing”.  What this meant was that my seat was back underneath the balcony and from there, half your line of sight  to the stage (top half) was cut off. I couldn’t have this. I ended up purchasing a second ticket when a fresh batch went on sale. This one was up in the balcony, four rows back, dead center. Perfect.

So I had two tickets to the gig. I am truly into concert-karma. I have given away extra tickets to needy fans before. I was on such a high from meeting my two new mates and going into to see Ronnie live and solo, that I gave my second ticket to a needy fan just five minutes before the show started. Restricted viewing or not, it was still a good seat and a savvy concert goer would have made the best of it. 

We get inside the venue, grabs some beers for the ride and head for our seats. Like I said…seriously strange shit. Mitchell and John we sitting directly behind me. I was beginning to think this was a set-up?! Nevermind that, the concert was about to begin. 

The lights went down and the people stood up…cheering and shouting as Ronnie was introduced. Chris Noth, “Mr. Big” from Sex in the City was there to bring Ronnie out on stage. After a quick intro, Ronnie and his play-mates ripped into “I Got a Thing About You”, a track from his brilliant new album, “I Feel Like Playing”. 

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Ronnie was on fire. He looked fresh and fit and fired up. Forget that he played an early 7:30 gig, he was full of energy and was playing his ass off. The past year has been a crazy one for Ronnie. He got divorced, was a daily feature in the gossip rags, was rumored to be broke and booze riddled and, quite possibly, on the outs with the Stones camp. Yuck! 

Ronnie is survivor. He has done it all and played with them all. He’s been down low on skid-row and  ridden on high in the penthouses. The other night he was right smack dab in the center of his universe. The playing was excellent. It was showcase for his true, raw talent…benefited by his recent string of seven months sober and a new creative spark. This new spark most likely coming from his equally brilliant new solo album, a recent, proper London gallery showing of his artwork, a new half-his-age Brazilian smoker of a girlfriend and a new internet radio show. The man, as they say, is on a roll. Yes!

But what is a roll without the rock, eh? Ronnie had both the rock and the roll working to his favor the other night. They played one new song after another, each with the vim and the vigor of a band on the brink. There were few old chestnuts in there as well, with the lead singer from the Stereophonics helping out on “Debris”.  Bernard Fowler was there to support on vocals and all things that you can shake and make noise with. They also had the cast of Stomp on hand. They backed up Ronnie on three numbers, including maybe my fave rave song of the night, “Spoonful”. Quite a cool collection of sounds on that one.

At just about midnight, as soon as the last sounds of the encore, “Jumping Jack Flash”, trailed off and the band gave it’s final bow, Mitchell, John and I plotted out next move. Mitchell suggested that  the band was probably going to an after party close by and we should hang out front to see if a crowd started to head in any direction. Sure enough, we hear that across the street at The Ivy there will be a reception for the band. To the Ivy we went. 

We made our way inside and figured we’d camp out at the bar on the main floor. Not a good idea. We were told we couldn’t be there without a booking. They asked us to leave. OK, we took a shot. This was not good enough for Mitchell. Mitchell was quick on his feet. He recognized that people were heading to the elevator to go to the private room on the top floor. They were all showing passes to get them past security. Mitchell looked at me and I looked at him and with a quick wink from each of us and a nod to John, we ducked in the elevator.

We moved at a quick and confident clip. The security guy was busy handing some issue and we took advantage. Before anyone could say anything, the doors closed. We were in.

Oh yeah, we were in. When the doors opened we could see that there were already a dozen or so people in the room drinking and eating from the midnight buffet. We cooly sidled up to the bar and ordered a few cocktails, all the while waiting for the elevator doors to open up and then be dragged back downstairs by the door goons. That never happened. We spent the next few hours at the party mingling and hanging with all sorts of people…including Ronnie.

I am not a gossip person. I can’t stand any of that TMZ, E! TV crap. I loathe it. I wasn’t at this party to hobnob, rather I was just excited to slip in and possibly get to say hello to Ronnie. I’m sure that there were few celebs there that I didn’t recognise, but there were a few people there I did spot, Bernard Fowler and Chris Noth included. 

<Hey, we made it this far, I might as well go for broke. Mitchell, John and I spent the next few hours hovering around the room like satellites talking with anyone who wanted to speak with us. Every now and then we'd toss a few knowing glaces and shit-eating-grins at one another from across the room and then meet up to pinch ourselves. I did end up talking to the Stereophonics singer, chatting with Bernard about solo projects and ordered a whisky with ol' Mr. Big. OK, cool enough, but I would have kicked myself until Sunday if I didn't say hello to Ronnie. 

Mitchell and I were standing (not hovering) over by Ronnie’s table just talking amongst ourselves. Ronnie’s table broke up and as they were all walking away. Mitchell says to Ronnie, “Hello again Ronnie. I met you a few times on the Voodoo, Bridges and Bigger Bang tours. Brilliant show tonight. This is my friend Judd. He’s from the States and is here for your show”.

Blamo! Mitchell threw me in the deep end! I could see it in his eyes before he did it. I was ready for it. No big deal; I would have done it myself, but the push was a good one. 

A few weeks ago I put up a blog post and in the comments we talked about what we would or did say to our music heroes when we meet of have met them. Well, here I was…neck deep in my own moment. I was standing there with Ronnie…after just seeing him live, at the after party I was not supposed to be at, at about 1:30 in the morning while half in bag…just shooting the shit. 

I commented on the concert, his album and his radio show. I figured that if I got stuck for anything to say that I could talk about his playlist selections from his radio show. Good idea. For the next little while I rattled off songs he played to which he was surprised I remembered (me too!). We talked rock and roll from there on in. I didn’t ask him about the Stones or Keef’s new book or any of that, I just kept the dial on rock and roll and that was good enough.  After a few more minutes I figured I was flying a little too close to the sun, so I said thanks for the show and said goodbye. 

For me this was once in a lifetime. For Ronnie it was, “who the hell was that and why was I talking to him”…and that’s OK.  I got to say hello, talk a bit of rock and roll and then say thanks for all the musical turn-ons. Perfect. 

When I came back to Mitchell, he was smiling like the Cheshire Cat. He was happy to have helped me get in the party and meet a music hero, His work there was done…almost.

Mitchell, John and I stayed on for another couple of hours. We drank more and partied more…not that we need to, mind you. We were on a high. We cracked the code. We had green lights all night…why would we want it to end. But end it did…they kicked us out. 

The rest of the night is spotty at best. We do know that we ended up in a cab and I got dropped off first. Only because of the exchange of text messages between me and Mitchell about kidnapping Don Was so he couldn’t produce anymore Stones albums and a crazy voicemail from Mitchell, did we know it was after four in the morning. Rock and roll, indeed.

What a night. WHAT. A. NIGHT. Like I said: seriously strange shit.  I was happy just to being going to the Ronnie gig at such a small venue. I wind up meeting two cool cats who are into the Stones and music as much as me, we are sitting next to each other at the gig, we sneak into the after party gig and mingle with the velvet ropers and I spend quality time chatting with Ronnie Wood. Hot, middle of the Earth hot, damn!

I know, I know…it’s only rock and roll, but dammit, I like it.

—–

This is the voicemail from Mitchell that I found on my phone the next morning. Like I said, it was very late and we were stretched to the limits. Mitchell and John, two great blokes. Safe to say we are now officially friends and will be attending many a gig in the near future…and crashing as many parties as possible. 

Mitchell Voice Mail.m4a
Listen on Posterous

Me & Ronnie Wood sharing a pint before the gig

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Just met two Stones freaks. We are off to the races.

Incoming! Old Masters & New Sounds: Ronnie & Neil & Eric (vids: Interviews, Tracks & Past Blasts)

Obviously I am jazzed about the new Neil Young (who I will only refer to as Now Young from now on). I have some thoughts I will share once the last of my hearing capacity is rendered useless from repeat listenings from this sound volcano. 

The Clapton album is growing on me. Of the three it is the one that hasn’t hit nerves at first listen. That being said, I think it is his most listenable in a long time outside of the Robert Johnson rehashes. 

The Ronnie Wood album has me excited. It is his most focused, enjoyable and happy album since “Slide”. Seriously, this is a Ronnie classic, ranking up there with “Gimme Some Neck”, “I’ve Got My Own Album to Do” and “Now Look”.  It has that classic loose, whoop up a storm, let’s trade licks and vibe feel that makes any good Ronnie album a great Saturday night party record.

I’m fucking kid in a candy shop.  I scored a ticket to Ronnie’s one-night-only London new album promo gig on October 19th. He has two shows going at 7:30 & 10:30. I’m going to late show. Ronnie will be running hot by then and the on-stage-special-guest-riff-fest should be epic by then. 

Check out @RonnieWoodShow for the 25th episode of Ronnie’s radio show. He highlights the new album and makes phone calls to Eddie Vedder, Kris Kristofferson, Bobby Womack and Bernard Fowler…all make contributions to the new album. 

Ronnie Wood: I Feel Like Playing

Interview:

Track: Lucky Man

Past Blast: I can Feel the Fire (w/Keef)

Now Young: Le Noise

Interview:

Track: Angry World (LOVE this song)

Past Blast: Watchtower (w/The Boss)

Eric Clapton: Clapton

Interview:

Track:  Traveling Alone

Past Blast: Further On Up The Road (from The Last Waltz. He’s always better when someone pushes him)