Sunday, January 25, 2009

The one and only Rolling Stones

I watched Shine a light last night. I didn't have high expectations, but I was in the mood to listen to some classic Stones and see if there was any Scorsese magic (I'd actually forgotten he's directed another concert film - The Last Waltz - which I still haven't seen - my bad).

I must say the cinematography was beautiful, especially so in HD. The sound quality was superb, although I noticed various instrument sounds were highlighted when the camera moved to them, especially from the supporting musicians. Even Richards' guitar work seemed to come in and out, but then again maybe he's struggling to stay on and that's how he plays these days. Or maybe, because of the sound quality, I've just noticed this for the first time. If the highlighting was deliberate, the effect seemed a little unnecessary.

Some would call the music of The Stones classic rock, however from this performance you can see that the sound of American blues music is solidly in their English blood. I've noticed their take on the blues on past occasions, but I think it was more evident than ever in the film, maybe it's always been there and it just took a more intimate setting to show it off rather than the mega shows we've been used to in the last 25 years.

[pause while I put on some tracks from 1969's Let it Bleed]

The duets with White, Guy and Aguilera were a great addition. With Jack White you got to really see his playful natural side, Buddy Guy's booming voice was just fantastic and the I loved the sassy and sexy chemistry between Mick and Christina Aguilera. I was also pleasantly surprised by Keith's lead on
You Got the Silver, that drugged-out dude can really sing and he really poured a lot of heart and energy into all his playing and singing in the show.

The movie was really a concert film with some intro elements from Scorsese to set the stage. There was some odd nonsense with Bill Clinton and company that seemed a little out of place. It may be a little hard to appreciate Scorsese's hand in the film with no clear directing of the performers, but I'm sure he had a big say in all elements of the film, from the choice of camera angles, editing, lighting, etc. Whatever he did, he made this intimate, bluesy and rocking performance a must see for any fan of The Stones, or any music fan wanting to find out what makes The Rolling Stones one of the best bands of all time.

The movie had a few interjections from old interviews, simple but effective. The selected excerpts showed their early confidence, their intelligent humour and a sense they already knew they would make a mark in the music world. Now in their 60's, the lines on their faces show they've enjoyed an exhausting career, but you can't fault their energy levels. It shows that youth never has to die, these kids are still just doing what they love. Jagger's non stop moves actually reminded me of
Brandon Flowers' Killer performance at Friday's night show here in Toronto.

I watched the movie by myself in my basement, but I didn't feel alone. I sung out loud a few times and felt like clapping in appreciation of their artistry on many occasions.
I've seen them live twice (1981 Tattoo You tour in Detroit and the massive SARS concert here in Toronto in 2003), but I felt I could almost call this the third, it was such a personal experience.

The film did it's job for me. It reminded me how truly great The Rolling Stones are. The New York performance shows what wonderful consummate performers they are. 40 years on and their energized and intelligent combination of classic blues and rock with the most singable and mature lyrics around is still shining bright. I'm proud to call them my countrymen.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Killer Show

Last night, I saw The Killers at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

A few months back, I posted about The Bands I'd Love To See which was prompted by having seen The Killers on Saturday Night Live. At the time, I didn't think that I would get to see The Killers from up close (with them mostly having grown to arena shows).

Last night was a great combination of a small club feel with the theatrics of an arena show. It was my first time on the floor for a general admission show at the ACC. My husband (luckily for me) humoured me and arrived at the venue 45 minutes before the doors opened which allowed us to get a spot 5 persons deep a bit right of center.

M83 began their 45 minute set at 7:30 and were very good (especially for a warm-up band). I loved the set-up with the two main singers facing each other on keyboards. The drummer was exceptional (not that I know much about drumming - but he really impressed me).

The Killers took the stage at 8:45pm after a brief countdown with the lights in the background. The crowd was instantly into it singing along to the oh oh ohohoh oh oh ohohoh of Spaceman.

The best view I had was of Brandon (the lead singer) and Ronnie (the drummer).

They were both very entertaining. Brandon surprised me at how comfortable he was on stage. In past reviews, he has been described as shy and awkward, but for me, he was very personable and he looked like he was really enjoying being up on stage (smiling and lots of facial interaction with the crowd and his bandmates). Perhaps that is not visible from further back - and perhaps live closeup videos of the band would have helped this (like I have seen other bands have).

I was really loving the show but then while they were playing Smile Like You Mean It (the 4th song), some disorderly guys shoved their way up through the crowd obviously not caring who they pushed or stepped on (it had been already completely packed in-with no space for anyone else and they were not small men who ended up standing beside me -or should I say stumbling and pushing?). I guess I was lucky that they didn't end up in front of me. This commotion got us distracted for that song, but when This is Your Life started (which I love), I tried to ignore the guys.

Joyride was next when Brandon asked the crowd to show him some sexy dancing. Half way through the song, bubbles started falling which was fun (and

Bones was a song which I really didn't expect. It's one of my favourite Killers song and I hadn't seen it on 2009 set lists (from previous shows). So, I got my camera out and videotaped 90 seconds of it.

I'm quite happy with the video as it does show how much Brandon moves around on stage and a minute into the video he pauses in front of where I was, then steps up closer to the audience (and touches the fans in the front rows). At this point (as you can see from the bumpy video), there is a lot of pushing forward and shoving. I stopped videotaping when it really started to get crazy. At the end of Bones, I found my husband (who had ended up almost 10 feet away from me after those guys showed up and this last shoving match) and we moved back about 5 rows where it was a bit tamer.

As wonderful as it was to have been close, being a bit further back made it great as well because we could more fully enjoy the spectacle of the light show and with songs like Human and All The Things That I've Done was worth moving back. It would have been interesting to move further back, but really the crowd was so packed in - it was difficult to move (even having moved back 5 rows had been a struggle).

So we stayed where we were and enjoyed the light show during Human. They had such an amazing performance at the MTV European Music Awards with an amazing light show and the band members in boxes. I was happy to see part of the light show incorporated into the ACC performance.

The concert wasn't all high energy dance numbers. An acoustic version of Sam's Town saw Brandon play at a piano at the back of the stage (my view was blocked by the front keyboard) was a good example of some of the quieter songs.

But the quieter moments were few and far between with the first set ending with Read My Mind, Mr. Brightside and the anthemic All These Things That I've Done which had many of the lyrics displayed on the back drop of the stage and confetti falling into the crowd.

The encore started with For Reasons Unknown followed by the Joy Division cover Shadowplay and Jenny Was a Friend of Mine.

They finished the 90 minute concert with the Guitar Hero song...When You Were Young which was a huge hit with audience especially with pyrotechnics falling down onto the stage.

For me, this concert was a 4 out of 5. It exceeded my expectations.

Losing Touch
Somebody Told Me
Smile Like You Mean It
This Is Your Life
Joy Ride
I Can't Stay
Bling (Confessions Of A King
A Dustland Fairytale
Neon Tiger
Sam's Town
Read My Mind
Mr. Brightside
All These Things That I've Done
For Reasons Unknown
Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine
When You Were Young

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Killers part 3

Great show, Flowers and drummer true performers. They played all their hits and my fave Joy Division cover. Better in the bigger venue than plastic performances on SNL and the like. Worth the crush.

sent from my BlackBerry

The killers part 2

Piano interlude. Second fight avoided. Great energy. Screaming girls. Still very intimate - crushed, but nicer folks a few feet back. My kind of Vegas floor show.

sent from my BlackBerry


Solid opening act for The Killers tonight. Great exposure for this small band - small enough that they're putting their own gear away and the guitarist walked on this his parka under his arm and his guitar case in hand. Great start to the night.

sent from my BlackBerry

Killers part 1

We have general admission floor tickets at the Air Canada Centre.

So my gung-ho-early-liner-upper wife has us jammed in up front and still a few hours to go before they go on - I must be crazy. And a little annoyed because they don't allow booze for floor tickets.

Looking around - I'm definitely the oldest guy in the mob. Spanish banter behind me. Mob is about about 20 deep - it must look odd for those sitting down in this 15,000 person arena !

Supporting act M83 hopefully up in the next 30 mins.

Not sure if I'll have elbow space to write later.

sent from my BlackBerry

Monday, January 12, 2009 - another way to share and find new music

Hot on the tail of what-influences-your-music-choices, last week I dabbled a little with a new music sharing site called I wasn't immediately impressed, but today a few other friends joined on and if you know me, obviously I didn't want to be left out of the new community. It's like one of those things out of The Tipping Point, when there is a critical mass of users or content focused on something that is of particular interest to you - you can't ignore it for long ! You can find my Blips at

Blip has a few quirks, but it's method of sharing and streaming individual tracks in decent quality seems quite appealing. It services two audiences, of which I'm probably both. One, the ever-aspiring DJ who wants to be the first to tell his friends about some great music finds; and second, the person always looking for new music. From what I've been able to find out so far, it seems quite legal which is very surprising because you can preview the full version of any track in its library and search and skip through Blips to hear exactly what you're interested in. In that regard, it is much better than other streaming sites I've used like
Finetune. However, it doesn't seem easy to get a good constant and stable themed stream going, and you're constantly being drawn from the latest hip track to old favourites and questionable diddies. If you blog a little about music or use Twitter for micro-blogging, then you can look at Blip as a micro-blogging site dedicated to music. The library is quite vast and I've found I few gems already.

This snappy player will likely be heading over to the right-hand column shortly. I'll be interested to see if Blip will become a music extension to this blog and if you'll jump into the Blip community. See you on the flip side.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What influences your music choices ?

Just reading and commenting in Mark Evans' blog about how Radio 2 is igniting a renewed interest in music for him. Mark posed the question "The question is why Terfry’s show has inspired the consumer in me when there are services around like Pandora and Jango?". My comment... "Interesting note on why radio seems to drive some of our music choices over other non-personal channels. I actually just finished reading The Tipping Point and in the updated afterword, Gladwell provides thoughts on impacts of technologies on The Law of the Few: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesman. It seems that we may be building an immunity to the huge volume of data we receive through new tech channels. I'd like to hear Malcolm's thoughts on the smaller community focus of web 2.0 being a better chance at building more valuable connections online."

Although I did comment back in November that I was getting some new (old) music from Radio 2, the vast majority of my music finds continue to come from reading reviews in magazines and then taking the time to sample a large amount of music. For instance, scattered around our living room are months of Q magazines with year-end US focused publications from Rolling Stone and Spin. I've been busy correlating many of the best ofs and making sure I didn't miss any gems in 2008. A found a few new ones just over the last couple of days from Rolling Stone. Mostly American artists like Blitzen Trapper, Conor Oberst and Girl Talk that haven't quite made the impact in the UK which is my primary source. There are plenty of online reviews (metacritic being a good consolidator) but music magazines remain one of the few hardcopy purchases I make on a regular basis - I love marking them up with check marks, c/o for "check out" and other personal ratings and comments.

Personal recommendations are almost always better than what you hear from mass market channels. You build a sense of trust with the person who recommends a good band or book, especially if you find one that hits the mark, is close to your tastes or perhaps they even begin to understand your personal tastes and they tailor their recommendations to you ! There must be a little gap in the web 2.0 weave for a little more personal recommendation. Blogs, Twitter and Facebook work to some degree, but there's room for improvement and readers should make a good effort to fuel the feedback loop. I pretend to be a source for recommendations and ratings for music (here and there) and movies via my Facebook page, and but then again it all comes down to personal preference and how specific your tastes are.

Can a good, reliable source influence your tastes ? I'd say it probably has for me over the years, especially with popular music in the UK. It's taken a while for me to trust the ratings in Q, but now we seem to be in sync. One other source I go to on a regular basis is IMDB for movies. I'd say the reader voting and reviews really do provide a good guideline for me and I can invest good time in any movie scoring over 7.

So where do you get your new music from ?